A Monster Calls is a beautiful, heartbreaking and honest look at processing grief and loss through the eyes of a child.
Title: A Monster Calls
Director: J.A. Bayona
Summary: A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mum’s terminal illness.
There are movies like Collateral Beauty and anything based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks that try to force you to feel sad. A good movie, a really good movie, will let you get there without forcing it. There is one thing that everyone can relate to and that’s loss. We are all going to lose someone in some way whether it is a friend, a grandparent, a parent, a child, a significant other, a sibling; someone in our lives is going to die and we are going to have to deal with it. Death is a hard concept to wrap our heads around as adults but children and young people see the world entirely different. That is what A Monster Calls is doing; it is using the power of imagination and a monster to help Conor (Lewis MacDougall) work through the fact that his mother (Felicity Jones) is going to die.
The visuals are the thing that is going to make this movie stand out. The Monster (Liam Neeson) looks a lot like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy only giant and somehow more frightening. However, the design walks that line of being frightening while also being approachable. This is a monster but it is not the thing that Conor has nightmares about. Newcomer Lewis MacDougall, who has really only had a small part in Pan, holds his own against the cast of academy award nominees and winners. He goes toe to toe with Sigourney Weaver like this is no big deal and he’s been doing this his entire life. It’s also nice to see Toby Kebbell prove why he can do more than just motion capture and a very bad version of Doctor Doom.
This is the sort of movie that is going to break your heart but it’s also the sort of heartbreaking that feels all too real. This is a movie that tells you that none of what you’re feeling when you’re experiencing loss are bad or even invalid. Even extreme reactions such as breaking something are sometimes okay if it means getting everything you holding inside out. The stories that the monster tells Conor are told through beautifully imagined watercolor drawings that are so well done a single frame from those scenes could be framed as art in a museum. So much credit must be given to cinematographer Óscar Faure who is slated to work on the Jurassic World sequel. If that movie is half as beautiful as this one then we are in for a treat.
A Monster Calls is a movie that is going to end up on a lot of “best of’s” lists (I’m sad that I waited too long to watch it to add it to mine) and it absolutely should be. It might not be able to contend with the likes of Moonlight or La La Land but A Monster Calls will stay with you long after you leave the theater.