A Monster Calls
The death of a loved one is difficult enough for an adult to deal with. For a child it must be overwhelming. Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) can see his mother (Felicity Jones) being slowly but surely ravaged by cancer. Although this sad little boy is the target of the class bully and his cronies, who routinely beat him up after school, Conor has no one to confide in. He does not want to upset his mother. His father (Toby Kebbell) lives in America with a new wife and daughter.
His maternal grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) is a no-nonsense real estate agent, whom Conor finds forbidding. His daytime experiences feed his recurring nightmare of losing his grip on his mother’s hand and watching her fall into the abyss.
Then, at precisely 12.07 each night, the old yew tree that Conor can see from his bedroom window turns into a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) and visits him. Although I found the CGI of the nightmare and the monster somewhat excessive, the water colour graphics that illustrate the monster’s three “parables” are exquisite.
Basically, the yew tree monster is helping Conor confront not only his fears but also the reality of his situation. When yet another failed medical intervention has his mother hospitalised, Conor goes to live with his grandmother in her “old person’s house”. Following a flying visit by his father, Conor’s frustration finally unleashes his inner monster.
Yet, no matter what he breaks or whom he hits, he knows that he can’t prevent his nightmare coming true.
His grandmother is so overwhelmed by her own devastating grief that she is unable to comfort him. Although there can be no fairytale happy ending to this story, Conor does eventually comprehend that his grandmother cares and we are left hoping that he and she might “live messily ever after”.
It is apparent why this screenplay by Patrick Ness, developed from an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, would have appealed to director J.A. Bayona, whose previous film The Orphanage also deals with children, death and the supernatural.
Like The Orphanage and The Impossible, the production values in A Monster Calls are impeccable.
While it is debatable at which age group this film is aimed, I would suggest that it is probably suitable for children aged nine or over.