A Monster Calls Movie Review
Don’t be fooled: A Monster Calls is neither a monster movie nor a kid’s movie, despite it being about a boy and his invisible monster friend. Rather, it’s a unique exploration of grief and acceptance as told through the eye’s of a 13-year-old boy on the verge of losing his mother.
Directed by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage and The Impossible) and based on the novel by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls is a drama that mixes live action with beautiful animation. The movie features a fine performance by young Lewis MacDougall. Sigourney Weaver is also very good as his grandmother. Liam Neeson voices the giant tree monster that appears to help Conor cope with the inevitable truth: that his mother (Felicity Jones) is going to die.
The movie succeeds largely on the way it walks the audience through what is happening in Conor’s mind, visually demonstrating how the boy navigates the stages of grief. It’s unique, and it’s rare to call a movie unique these days.
But ultimately, A Monster Calls relies on its ability to resonate on an emotional level. While the story is certainly sad and the characters complex, the movie didn’t stab at the heart in the way I’ve heard it has to some people. It’s a fascinating story, but Conor’s emotional journey is the film’s focus; the emotional crux, however, is a predictable one (mom dying of cancer), and it’s been done many times before. There are no emotional revelations, only emotional certainties.
A Monster Calls is a well done, original and interesting tale about grief. However, the monster may turn off some individuals looking for a more conventional drama, and its success depends on how far under the skin you’re willing to let it. I didn’t let it in very deep.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.