True terror doesn’t always come in the form of a big-budget CGI extravaganza. In fact, it feels more authentic when it’s seen through the eyes of a child and it’s directly impacting the character’s entire family. True terror happens when A Monster Calls.
Hands down, this is best movie you didn’t see last year. After being released at the end of the year for 2016, it stayed in the awards conversation for a while (eventually winning 28 in various categories), but it only made $3.7 million domestically at the box office (as compared to $39.9 million internationally). For some reason, all the critical acclaim around the world couldn’t muster up an audience for this fantasy-drama film, and that’s a shame. Hopefully, with its home video release, people will finally give it a shot.
Based on a low fantasy novel of the same name from an idea by Siobhan Dowd, A Monster Calls focuses on Conor O’Malley and the nightmare he faces every day as his mother suffers from a terminal illness. Dowd, herself, unfortunately suffered from cancer and passed away before completing the story. Patrick Ness eventually wrote the book, as well as the screenplay, which feels incredibly personal.
Conor (portrayed by Lewis MacDougall), is too young to be a man, but too old to be a kid. His life is a crumbling landscape, which threatens to take away his mother (Felicity Jones) and forces him to be an adult at an early age. Tormented with a wide range of emotions, he is surprised when a yew tree transforms into The Monster, telling Conor three tales before forcing him to reveal his true nightmare, or else The Monster will devour the boy. While it sounds bizarre, The Monster is Conor’s only true friend, as he faces school bullies, pitying teachers, a flaky father (Toby Kebbell) and cold-as-ice Grandma (Sigourney Weaver). Conor calls to The Monster in hopes of healing his mother, but ultimately heals his own pain.
Stories are wild creatures, capable of creating mass destruction if allowed to run free and this one is powerful, emotional and an incredible tearjerker. A Monster Calls taps into a neverending fear that is especially apparent during our youthful years. Having been at the bedside of dying family members in the past, this movie truly struck a nerve. The writing is incredible and the acting is top notch. When a pivotal point arose in the storyline, I immediately broke down and started crying, which basically never happens, as I saw myself through Conor’s eyes. Unless you’re a robot, you, too, will cry at some point while watching this film.
Before she was featured in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Felicity starred in this movie with a very bad haircut (representing the consequences of chemotherapy). The special effects aren’t half bad (unlike Sigorney Weaver’s British accent) and Liam Neeson’s deeply digitized voice somewhat resonated with that of Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy. His giant tree-like monster looks remarkably like Groot and feels reminiscent to Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime. Sounds like an odd amalgam, but the complicated character was a highlight for me. Keep your eyes peeled at the conclusion for an Easter egg featuring Neeson that reveals even more about the storyline, and his character in particular.
“People don’t like what they can’t understand.”
Definitely give this movie a shot. While the story was primarily written for a Young Adult audience, focusing on finally letting go of your pain, it is a topic that is quite relevant for people of all ages.