A Monster Calls movie cast: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, Toby Kebbell
A Monster Calls director: J A Bayona
Not all monsters are monstrous. This is just one of the several nostrums this oddly moving yet oddly dissatisfying film hands out. Another is learning to let go, and how when it is time, it is time. Also, not all designated Prince Charmings may be nice, but may, after a time, have a change of heart. The fourth is the most complex of all, and demands considerable investment of thought: that truth does set us free.
A Monster Calls, based on a novel of the same name, occupies a strange sort of in-between space. It is a little too dark and sparse for little kids, and too obvious for those who have crossed over into adulthood, or the age that passes for one.
At its best, and the monster voiced magnificently by Liam Neeson is perhaps the best thing about the film, it draws us into the world of lonely young Conor O’Malley who lives with his ill mum (Felicity Jones) in a house on the moors, one of whose windows looks out on a gorgeous yew tree.
Wrestling with abandonment issues and school bullies, and faced with the hard, hard fact of mortality and the prospect of moving in with a stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), the lonely Conor finds an unlikely ear in the shape of a monster who appears at his window exactly at seven minutes past midnight.
This creature, who starts out by being a little scary—fiery eyes, creaking wooden limbs, accompanied by a sibilant sound—turns into an older pal-cum-rescuer. And helps Conor find an answer to his recurring nightmare, an acceptance of the fact that death exists, and that it has to be dealt with.
That’s a heavy lesson for a youngster, even if done in a palatable manner. Caution your children, and yourself, when you set out to see this one which has some excellent live animation: I was wiping away tears when it ended.
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