A Monster Calls is the film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Patrick Ness. It tells the story of a young boy, named Connor, who is visited nightly by a giant monster. Connor is struggling with issues at school and at home, and dealing with things that no one, let alone a child, should have to deal with. A Monster Calls explores the complexity of a child’s emotions through imagination. Having read the novel and loved it, I knew that trying to not compare this Film to the book would be difficult. However, this wasn’t really an issue, as the film is almost exactly the same as the book plot-wise, and acts as a very good companion piece to it. The film captures the essence of what made the book special, and that is its mature approach to a child’s mind as well as its full and vibrant imagination, and while it isn’t a masterpiece or one for the Oscars, it is a touching and heartfelt experience with an important message that can connect to all ages. A Monster Calls stars Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, and Sigourney Weaver, and is directed by J. A. Bayona.
This film deals with important issues that can face children and young people and it doesn’t play down the impact it can have on them. Connor is faced with issues like bullying, a Mother with an illness, and a Father on a different continent, and like many children his age, he doesn’t know how to deal with it. The Monster tells Connor stories relating to his situation. The film uses animated segments to tell these stories that have an interesting, painting style which I liked. These sections did feel a little bit jarring, though, and while they were definitely a crucial part of the film, they perhaps could have been woven into the film better rather than being completely isolated segments. This wasn’t a huge issue though, the segments were still good they just messed with the pace a little.
MacDougall did really well in the role of Connor, especially considering his age. There’s always a worry with child actors that they’re going to be terrible, and so at first I was skeptical of him, but he really grew on me and, especially towards the end, gave a heart-wrenching performance. Connor felt like a fully realised child and as the film gives a deep insight into his feelings you care about what he’s going through. Felicity Jones was also really strong as Connor’s mother. She was likeable and portrayed her illness with sincerity. The fact that you sympathise with her greatly increases both the impact of the film and our connection to Connor. Sigourney Weaver as Connors Grandmother was fine to start with but really grew on me towards the second half of the film as she got to show off her acting talent. Her character grew more sympathetic as the film went on which again increases the impact of the film. However, the Monster definitely stole the whole film for me. He was animated beautifully, realised with great detail, especially in his face and eyes, which make him feel real (which is actually relevant to want Connor and his mum talk about when drawing and eyes being the source of life). Liam Neeson voiced him perfectly as well, bringing both an imposing and fatherly nature.
My biggest problem with the film is its ending, which wasn’t bad, it just went on one scene too long. The film had a perfect end point, I was close to crying and it faded to black, but then it did the thing that a lot of films seem to do and just had that one scene it didn’t need. It kind of ruined the final impact of the story which was a bit of a shame, and the extra scene actually raised some questions and affected the plot in ways that weren’t really necessary in my opinion. It’s not a huge concern but it was just a bit irritating.
Overall, I enjoyed A Monster Calls. It’s an emotional film with good performance and a giant tree monster that is intriguing and heartfelt. If you have read the book then this film is a good visual companion to it and if you haven’t then, while I still suggest you read the book, this film adequately portrays the very touching story.
P.S. News year’s resolution is to try and do more of these reviews and maybe some other more talk point type things. Going to see a lot more films if I can, me and my girlfriend are starting Movie Mondays this year so I should get a review out at least once a week if not more.