A Monster Calls Review

One of the most personal reviews I’ll ever write – The story of a boy who uses his imagination to cope with his mothers terminal illness.

“I know everything about you. The truth that you hide. The truth in your dreams.”

Release Date: January 6, 2017.

I subscribe to a bunch of different movie trailer YouTube channels, and one day I saw that a trailer for a film called “A Monster Calls” was added to their channel, I thought it was going to be a trailer for a horror/thriller movie, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that t was much bigger than that. I was a story of hope, about illness, about life, about living, and I knew that I had to see it. It was immediately on my radar and I knew I had to see this movie. It looked to transcend just being a movie, as it is a story and a lesson in life.

This a story that was personal for me as I will get into in a bit, and to me, this is probably the most important reviews I’ve written so far. I hope this isn’t written as weirdly as I think, as this started as an inspirational movie Monday, then I sat on it for a couple days and it turned into this.

A Monster Calls is a Drama and Fantasy film about a boy who seeks the help of a monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness.

The film is directed by J.A. Bayona. I have seen one other film of his called The Orphanage (2007). Bayona is an interesting director, as his films are not quite what they seem and they go a lot deeper into human emotion. On the surface they’re one film, but after watching them and you dive into the layers the films transcend just being a movie, they’re about human interaction. Even when I watched The Orphanage I expected a thriller/horror movie, but it went a lot deeper and a lot more human than I expected. After I heard he was directing A Monster Calls, I knew it would be something special and I was right. His directing reminds me a lot of Guillermo Del Toro, which is interesting as Del Toro produced The Orphanage. I say that they’re similar in the style they create their films, they have an interesting filter over their shots, and their monster designs are similar. I also felt like this movie was a lot like Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” – In Pan’s Labyrinth, Ofelia escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world to cope with the changes going on in her life. In A Monster Calls, Conor creates this alternative world around him to cope with the changes going on in his life. I felt like I was watching a very human fairy tale and only with subtle directing and great visual style that Bayona brought to the table, could this story come off as human and as amazing as it does.

The screenplay is written by Patrick Ness. Which is interesting because he was the author of the book upon which the movie is based on. When an author decides to adapt his own work into a screenplay it is always better as it is originally their thoughts and their ideas that are being adapted into a book, but less gets lost in the translation to film. I think this story was too important to be adapted by anyone else. The screenplay was as I previously said, like a fairy tale. It was a brilliant mix of Drama and Fantasy, it had heart, it had emotion and it turned out to be something really special that transcends just being a film. All the characters, even the smaller characters without a lot of screen time were well written. The best part about the story is that it was human, there was no suspension of disbelief, it was human.

The film stars Lewis MacDougall as Conor, Felicity Jones as Mum, Sigourney Weaver as Grandma and Liam Neeson as The Monster.

Lewis MacDougall’s only other film he was in was Pan in 2015 before doing this role. Which is insane to me, I honestly thought that this 14 year old boy was a child actor thats been acting since a young age, but no, he was only in one other film. His portrayal of Conor was amazing, I was really surprised how well he can act. He captivated me as a viewer of the film and I really saw a lot of myself in him, and I engrossed in his acting. Every emotion he felt, sadness, anger, hope, acceptance, I felt it all through his portrayal. His chemistry with Felicity Jones was just engrossing and captivating, it was genuine.  MacDougall if he continues to act and choose these kinds of roles, he will be a huge star one day.

Felicity Jones’ filmography consists of Like Crazy (2011), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), The Theory Of Everything (2014), True Story (2015) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). Jones is an absolute master of her craft. All of her roles that I have seen her in are amazing, she always chooses these really interesting roles that you can tell she really sinks her teeth into and really dips into everyone of her characters with both feet. As great as MacDougall is in this movie, I really thought Jones stole the show. I think she can really play any character, she was fantastic in Rogue One, but for her to be able not only to star in a action/adventure sci-fi movie, but also star in a biopic and be fantastic in that and then play a very important role in a fantasy drama picture is just crazy to me. I can’t wait to see what she does next, and if she wasn’t one to watch before, theres absolutely no question that she’s on my radar for anything she’s in after A Monster Calls.

Sigourney Weaver’s filmography consists of the Alien franchise (1979, 1986, 1992, 1997), Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989), Galaxy Quest (1999), Paul (2011), The Cabin In The Woods (2012), and Chappie (2015). It’s always a pleasure to see Weaver act, everything she’s been in she’s commanded the screen. It was interesting to see her play a completely different role in this movie though, it was different than anything I have ever seen her do before. I thought she really hit all the emotional strides very well in this movie, even when she was silent, you could see the emotion on her face. She was excellent in this movie.

Lastly, Liam Neeson’s filmography consists of Darkman (1990), Schindler’s List (1993), Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Love Actually (2003), Batman Begins (2005), Taken Series (2008, 2012, 2014), The Next Three Days (2010), Unknown (2011), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014), and Non-Stop (2014). Liam Neeson is the definition of a chameleon. He can do any role, any genre, and any genre. He can be hilarious, he can be pent up with anger, he can do action, he can do drama, he can play anyone or anything. It was cool to just hear his voice in the movie, as I’ve never heard him portray just a voice. Its always a pleasure to even hear Liam Neeson’s voice, and I thought he did very well as the monster.

I thought all these characters had great chemistry. It felt like a real life family, even when they were at odds with each other, it was still amazing.

This story really hit home for me on many levels , as my mother had cancer a couple of years ago but went into full remission when I was in high school. I felt a personal attachment to the movie and exactly the same way that Conor felt , all the different emotions, all the different changes and all the unexpected events that could occur. I went through the phase of anger for a while, I stuck to myself, but I was always hopeful. The bond that Conor and his mum that was portrayed in the movie, I felt was very similar to myself and my mom. I also had two aunts on both sides of my family who have battled cancer, unfortunately one aunt passed away in my first year of university. But she always was extremely optimistic and hopeful. My other aunt is still kicking and is sassy as ever, but she was full of hope. I think the underlying message of this movie is that no matter what happens, you always need to have a positive outlook and be hopeful, you can be angry and sad, but you can’t give up, no matter how much the odds are stacked against you or someone you love.

This film can be applied to any relationship, as everyone deals with things in a different way no matter who it is. I found solace in this story.

So is it inspiring on the surface? No, but I think it is a tunnel for people to find solace, to those that are dealing with love ones who have cancer or have had cancer and survived. That’s one of the reasons that it transcends just being a film, because I felt like it was more than just a story, it was life. Life is too short to not hope and to not love with every ounce of your being.

This movie is life-changing, its just an experience that needs to be seen, and it is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen in a while. I also have never moved closer to a television to be closer to a film before this one, and when I watched it, I felt compelled to do so.

This movie captivated me, it moved me in multiple ways. I haven’t been moved that way in a long while.

A Monster Calls gets a 5/5 from me. This film sucked me in from beginning to end, and I will be returning to it in the near future. I highly recommend it.

I really hope that the Oscars give this movie something, because it definitely deserves it.

Until Next Time!


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