Very few films have moved me to tears. Not because I am a sociopath or just a stoic bastard but just because not many films have been able to impress me... okay that's an overstatement, a lot of films impress me but very few of these films strike a deep chord within me. Usually, the films that do, are a result of nostalgic value such as most Disney films, or films that broke boundaries and tackled subjects not a lot of films tend to like "American History X."
Then I saw "A Monster Calls," and I am telling you right now.... no film has ever moved me to tears as much as this film.
Earlier this year, I reviewed Patrick Ness's book of the same name. While I was aware it was being adapted into a film, I didn't mention it because I don't usually mention movies when discussing the book because I want you to go out and read the book. Rarely, do I recommend seeing a film adaptation of the book, but this is one of those rare times. A Monster Calls isn;t only an amazing adaptation, but also an amazing film.
Just like the book, the film revolves around a boy, Connor O'Malley, whose mother is stricken with cancer and is dying. Conner is in denial and constantly insists that his mother is going to get better, even though it's pretty clear she isn't. He seeks solace through his love of drawing, a talent that was taught to him by his mother who wanted to be an artist. Through his denial and his art, he conjures up a monster, who is in the form of a tree located at the nearby church. The monster visits him every night at seven past midnight. And yes this specific time is important. He plans to tell Conner, three stories that relate to him, and on the fourth night, he want's Connor to tell his tale, which is a truth he doesn't want to admit.
I won't go into too many details about the movie as it goes on because I still want you to read the book and watch the film (one of the other.) But I will mention the lesson involved.
At the end of the film, Conner finally admits that he wants every to just end. He is sick of waiting for his mother to die, he's sick of his mother suffering, as he says "I just want it to be over." Yes, it is a bit selfish because he is referring to himself, but that's what makes him human. And this relates back to the stories the monster tells him. Without describing the stories, it involves certain people doing terrible things but at the same time seem to be very good-hearted people, and even vice-versa. And the message becomes clear in the end. There is no such thing as bad people or good people because we are all bad people as well as good people. Conner is just like us, he's selfish, he's angsty, he's angry, he's upset, he as all the negative emotions we universally share. But he doesn't want his mother to die. It's made very clear that he loves her, and is denying the truth that she's going to make it, which hurts him. He doesn't like the dread of waiting for her mother to pass on and just wants it to be over and done with, even if it means he will loose her.
The message is a bit more than obvious but this was meant for a younger audience so I can't criticize for that. It acts as a message for teens and adults as it does for children. How we can't run away from the inevitable, how we must come to terms with loved one passing and learn to let them go. We can't hold our pain inside and pretend it isn't there because it won't make what's causing the pain go away.
The cinematography is beautiful, with many impressive camera shots that sort of hint at arthouse style, as well gothic art, almost as if it's trying to mimic the artwork of the book.
The cast is also a great cast. Lewis MacDougall gives a believable performance as Conner, even if he looks pale as a ghost throughout the film. Felicity Jones (who also stared in Inferno and Star Wars: Rogue One) plays the mother, and you can tell she is putting her all into it to portray a sick mother who is clearly trying to hide her pain from everyone around her. A-list actor Liam Neeson voices the Monster, and finally, Signourney Weaver plays the uptight but good-natured grandmother. They all give an A+ performance and their emotions are the center of what makes this movie an experience.
I have absolutely no criticism's towards this film. Not only is it a loyal adaptation to the book, but its an amazing film. It had heart in all the right places. It's visually beautiful and creative. Despite the target audience, it was meant for, it never talks down to the viewer, making it an enjoyable film for adults. Most importantly, its message is deep, relatable and universal because it's something we are all going to have to face. There is a lot more to this film I didn't write about because I want you to go see the film for yourself and experience the same.
I am proud to give this movie a five out of five stars.
P.S. I'm just fanboying here, but one of my favorite shows, when I was little, was HBO's short-lived series, "The Worst Witch" and Felicity Jones played as Ethel Hallow and I had a major crush on her even, if she was a stuck-up jerk to Mildred.