FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “A Monster Calls” stars Lewis MacDougall (Pan, The Belly of the Wale), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Avatar), Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Theory of Everything), Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Warcraft: The Beginning), and Liam Neeson (Taken, Non-Stop). It is directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) and written by Patrick Ness (Class [TV series], Chaos Walking). As his mother starts to deteriorate due to her cancer and bullies consistently knock him around, Conor (MacDougall) turns to a giant tree monster (Neeson) for help after he is visited by him one night.
Finally, I have seen “A Monster Calls.” I don’t know about you guys, but when the trailers came out for this film, I was highly interested. It looked to be a fresh concept with an important lesson attached. On top of that, the cinematography was beautiful, so why not give it a shot? Unfortunately, I was unable to see it in theaters, and it took me forever to rent it. But, now I’m here, having seen it, and I must say that it is excellent. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a story that presented itself in a high concept form when talking about a subject that’s frequent in the genre of drama. A kid’s mom has cancer and on top of that he is being bullied in school. Life is not going the way it should for him, and it takes a monster to help him realize something bottled up. I didn’t know what to expect from this feature in terms of how the plot played out. The style presented in the trailer was still present in the film, though how it was executed was a different matter. When the monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, appeared to Conor, a solid twenty-five to thirty minutes have passed. We were established with the crappy situation Conor was placed in, giving reason for the monster’s arrival. However, I didn’t expect the monster to show Conor a revelation by means of three stories. The writer of this, who took from a novel that wasn’t completed (the author passed away), was purely poetic in expressing this story. Each tale the monster said had meaning behind it, all of which gave way to a newer meaning come time the movie’s conclusion. It’s nothing over your heads, considering how the dialogue tends to explain things, but thankfully it isn’t so much that they are spoon feeding you. There is room for interpretation, and I found myself heavily engaged in the story that unfolded. Sure, some of the ending was predictable (which is a con), but the whole journey and destination of it all was satisfying nonetheless. The acting in this was phenomenal, with stellar performances from everyone. Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver turned in another good role, and Lewis MacDougall astounded me. He was exceptionally good. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Liam Neeson, who voiced a freaking tree monster, and Toby Kebbell surprised me. After seeing his disastrous performance in 2015’s “Fantastic Four,” I never thought I’d see him again. The direction of this picture was fantastic, as the visual effects blended perfectly with the live-action. As an added bonus, they actually made it an art piece, as the animation accompaniment was beautiful. Their use of watercolors and 2D animation to weave a story was terrific. There’s a lot of heart that goes into this movie, as well as fear and loss. I will admit that I teared up towards the end, but it concluded in a way that gave appreciation rather than sorrow. Besides the ending being a bit predictable and a few dry spots, this is a film that will surely be a great watch for anyone. It certainly doesn’t talk down to kids and even provides a lesson that I think everyone should know in case a tragedy occurs. “A Monster Calls” is an Indie film worth your time. FINAL SCORE: 92%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: