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A Monster Calls (12A)

Synopsis:

Conor, a 12 year old who is facing the darkest time in his life finds help from a wise monster who tells him stories that will guide him through the times ahead.

Review:

As I’ve gotten older I like to think that my taste in films has become more refined, some would say it has become massively pretentious. However, my taste has turned away from fetishized robot smashy films and towards more sensitive films that belong in the genre known as: “Weepies”. It’s a genre that works wonders on me, that is to say if it is designed to bring a tear to my eye then it surely will.

A Monster Calls is a film written by Patrick Ness based on the book of the same name also by Patrick Ness. There’s so much about this film that I loved, first and foremost is Liam Neeson’s performance as the voice of The Monster. It’s simply tremendous. His voice carries such emotional heft and really brings life to the stunningly rendered Yew Tree Monster. Liam Neeson is well-known now as the puncher of baddies and the rescuer of displaced daughters, but this performance proves that he can be so much more than the protagonist of endless churned out B-Movie trash (although Non-Stop is superb). The child actor is good in this film, I felt sympathy for him through the entire story, which was good because so often films and T.V shows include child characters that are so annoying, Carl from The Walking Dead is a perfect example. He’s a character who the audience should be able to empathise with and yet he is just loathsome. Conor in A Monster Calls has frequent outbursts of explosive rage and commits destructive and hurtful acts and yet I appreciated why, his anger shows the many different reactions that profound grief can provoke.

As good as the performances are, the thing that really wowed me were the stunning visuals. I am someone who loathes films that are all style over substance. (For those of you who would cite The Neon Demon as an example of style over substance… you are wrong.) However, the style in this film perfectly complements the rich substance that runs throughout. During the course of the film The Monster tells three stories/fables and we see them unfold on screen: the visual element of the stories are gorgeous as they are watercolour images. The sumptuous watercolour visuals coupled with Liam Neeson’s bold voice make these stories alone worth the price of admission.

As this film is a weepie then for it to be a good weepie it needs to have made the audience/me cry. In that respect it is a supremely good weepie. There is one sequence that had me crying so much that I was physically shaking. It’s a scene that occurs quite near the end of the film, and it’s a scene of catastrophic loudness and overwhelmingly raw emotional tension, it’s as beautiful as it is tragic. The most well-known Y.A weepy film/book is undoubtedly The Fault in Our Stars, which is no bad thing as I loved the film despite all its many flaws. However, A Monster Calls is far superior in terms of quality, writing, characters, acting and most importantly: there are no very ill-judged sequences in the Anne Frank house.

Verdict:

A deeply moving and touching film about loss, grief and the importance of knowing when to let go. The performances are simply superb, I even found Felicity Jones tolerable, which was an unexpected delight. This is one of the best films I have seen in quite some time and I simply cannot praise it enough. Go and see this film! GO! GO! GO!

Stars: 5/5

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