Film review – A Monster Calls

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A MONSTER CALLS

Heartbreaking real world fantasy about a boy facing up to losing his mother to cancer, directed by JA Bayona and starring Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and the voice of Liam Neeson.

Sometimes a film hits you so hard you just want to run out and tell everyone you know to go and watch it.

A Monster Calls is one of those movies, but with one caveat : if you or anyone close to you has lost someone recently, especially any children younger than about ten or eleven, I would warn you to maybe hold off for a while because although absolutely wonderful in every conceivable way, the movie is also at times a very painful watch.
It’s one of those incredibly uplifting but simultaneously devastating pictures that will leave you sobbing with wonder at what you’ve just witnessed.

I never read the book, but by all accounts no film could ever do it justice .. well, I think maybe this one did.

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Visually, it’s easily the most beautiful movie I’ve seen in years. The cinematography, the design, the animation – which doesn’t even appear until almost halfway through – and the seamless blend of fantasy with reality, from the drawn pages of a boy’s sketchbook through to the grim and gloomy timeless world that he inhabits, everything flows so naturally. It’s a dreary place that evokes Tim Burton and Roald Dahl at their darkest, familiar to anyone who’s watched anything slightly gothic between the original Willy Wonka movie and last year’s BFG.

The monster is powerful, scary and reassuring all at the same time, voiced with aplomb by Liam Neeson, who brings forth more than a touch of The Lord Of The Rings’ Treebeard, while the animation of him is reminiscent of the untouchable Iron Giant.
Are you with me yet ?
This ranks right up there with all the classic children’s fantasy tales ever told, it’s that good.

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And yet .. I don’t think children should watch it.
It’s too real.
Even now, sitting here at the keyboard, I’m welling up thinking about the emotions unleashed by the picture. My own mother passed away nearly twenty years ago, but it all came flooding back – literally – during the last half-hour of A Monster Calls.
But you must watch it .. just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It deserves a wider audience.
It’s much better than Fantastic Beasts, but it had a fraction of the marketing budget, but that’s how Hollywood works until word of mouth gets out and brings a classic to the fore, in the manner of, say, The Shawshank Redemption. It tanked on release, but is now lauded as one of the greatest movies ever made, and by all accounts A Monster Calls has been disappointing at the box office .. but not for anyone who’s seen it.

The story revolves around Conor, a lonely kid of about twelve, who lives with his mum. His dad lives in America now and the only other family he has is the frankly quite scary Grandma, played with relish by Sigourney Weaver. The world seems pretty black and white to him .. though mostly black. There’s good (his mum) and evil (everyone else) and not much inbetween … which is where the monster comes in.
It’s part morality tale, part a rite of passage, though both have come far too early for Conor, yet that’s what makes the story so endearing, so heart-wrenching and so real.
As with most great children’s tales, the kids are usually the calm centre of the storm and the idiots that are running around causing havoc are the grown-ups ..

But that’s all I’m going to say about the plot because this is one movie above all others that I don’t want to spoil. You know the basic plot already : for the details, you must see it yourself.

A Monster Calls is a masterpiece.
Do whatever you can to see it as soon as you can.

Just make sure you have some tissues to hand because you will need them ..

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