A Monster Calls review

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A MONSTER CALLS-

January is notorious for being a slow month for movies that catch our attention. Considered “dump month” by the industry, January is a month typically reserved for movies that Hollywood production studios release what they expect to be their worst movies. There are many reasons for this…the cold weather, people recovering from the holidays and getting back to normal routines and the timing is just past what’s considered prime for Hollywood’s award season. Knowing all this, it is safe to assume expectations were low or even nil going into to watch “A Monster Calls”. Which might actually be a good thing going into this movie, because it was such a delightful surprise. Not knowing much about the premise or plot of the movie besides jokingly thinking that Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy” finally got his own spinoff movie (not really), “A Monster Calls” turned out to be a literal diamond in the rough of bad January movies. Or is that figurative? Either way, this movie demands movie goers’ attentions.

“A Monster Calls” is a unique movie that might deviate from the demands of the main stream movie going audience and there could be some question as to what exactly this movie is about. Some might recognize it from the novel by the same name and same screenwriter that was published in 2011 but basically, and this is not a spoiler since it is in the trailer, it’s the story of a young British boy, Connor O’Malley, dealing with his mother’s terminal illness. It is obviously a fantastical tale since it also involves a giant tree monster that could be Groot’s dad (again, not really). How does this monster play into the story of this boy and his mother? Well, in very fascinating ways it turns out. The monster haunts the boy and is seemingly obsessed with Connor’s worst nightmare. The narrative is an intelligent allegory about the fallacies of human assumptions and the simplest of human truths. Stories within stories are also an interesting concept that is played out very well in this movie.

Visually, this is a remarkable movie. The CGI on the tree monster is crafted magnificently and doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the movie. There are some animated portions in this movie also and it is some of the most unique animated artwork ever to be put on film. The editing and composition of the scenes are phenomenal. A very well put together film, “A Monster Calls” is just beautiful and even breathtaking to see. The acting is just impeccable. The child actor, Lewis Macdougal playing Connor, is featured in virtually every scene and while this may be considered risky for a lot of films, this young actor carries the burden tremendously. Felicity Jones, playing in her third movie of the year after “Inferno” and “Rogue One” is her normal exceptional self and does an amazing job playing the vulnerability of Connor’s mom. Other standouts in this film are Signourney Weaver as Connor’s grandmother and Toby Kebbell as Connor’s father. The emotional weight of this movie is strong because one feels for these characters and the humanity conveyed in these actors’ portrayal of their respective roles. Liam Neeson’s voice work as the tree monster is also top notch and very enjoyable.

“A Monster Calls” deserves to be known and seen. It is not a fun ride by any means and may be difficult to process emotionally, but that is what makes this movie not only good…but great. This is just fine filmmaking here. A contradiction, one of the themes touched on in the film, in a way because this is a movie that many will not yearn to watch, but most everyone will appreciate and be glad they did.

Grade: A

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