A Monster Calls, and you should answer. This is a really wonderful film about how a young boy deals with his mother battling a terminal illness. And in retrospect, maybe it reminded me a little of how I dealt with my parents divorce.
I definitely found certain parallels between myself and Conor, played by a wonderful Lewis MacDougall. Though, as Conor conjures a kind of monster from the big, ancient tree in the churchyard at the top of the hill across the street from his house in order to explain his own actions, I adopted those monsters I saw in film to help me escape whatever damage and stress I was experiencing in my life.
Conor’s mom is played by Felicity Jones, and she is also great here, and Jones is having a fine 2016 with this and Rogue One to round out her year. In fact, everybody is excellent here, with the small exception of Sigourney Weaver’s (Conor’s grandmother) English accent. Luckily she keeps it subtle enough that it’s not too much of a distraction.
Liam Neeson is a perfect choice for the voice of the Monster, all warm and gravelly, yet becoming dangerous and threatening with ease. The CG effects are top notch, as is the ever-important sound design here, as every little movement of the Monster gives off a crunch of bark and tree limb. It’s like listening to trees creak in the wind.
As Conor processes his feelings, the Monster gives him a push, and helps to give him answers. He is the representation of his grieving process. As a kid Conor’s age, I had Godzilla, King Kong, Gamera, Ultraman, and the stop-motion creatures of Ray Harryhausen, to help me not deal with my parents fighting, which was helpful in blocking it all out of my consciousness. Thanks Monsters! You made growing up a lot easier. You even continue to make being an adult pretty neat, too.
Conor’s Monster helps him to find the answers he needs, and to tell himself the truth. A Monster Calls is at times moving, thrilling, funny, and is completely satisfying. There could be some Oscar noms in there somewhere. Director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible) attention to detail is perfect with this adaptation of the book by Patrick Ness, who also wrote this screenplay. Bayona and cinematographer Oscar Faura paint some mighty beautiful images here, too. For sure four kittenhands from me.
Films continue to help me deal with – or not deal with – life on a daily basis. Jury is still out on what kind of ending it will have, and frankly it’s occasionally satisfying.
~ Neil T Weakley, your average movie goer, actually looking forward to January’s films of dubious quality.