Director J.A Bayona (The Impossible) tells the heartbreaking story of Conor O'Malley, a young boy whose mother is slowly dying of cancer. Conor is visited in the middle of the night by a giant monster who has emerged from a Yew tree atop a hill opposite Conor's house. This monster, voiced exquisitely by Liam Neeson (Silence), tells Conor three different stories and in return, he wants to hear Conor's nightmare.
Death is often used in film as a hackneyed plot point used to deliver an emotional punch to the audience, sometimes, this punch isn't earned. A Monster Calls uses death and the whirlwind of emotions surrounding the concept of losing those we hold dearest to it's full potential, delivering one of the most sorrowful and heartbreaking finales that I've seen in years. Bayona and author/screenwriter Patrick Ness perfectly represent the simultaneous selfishness and selflessness that one feels when someone close to you is dying and the ways in which grief can be dealt with.
The monster himself is visually stunning, but the character is really brought to life by Liam Neeson's excellent performance. The monster is used as a way for Conor to overcome his grief and suffering. He conjures up this creature in his dreams as a means of understanding his own emotions but also letting go of his mother. Lewis MacDougall leads the film remarkably well, he expresses everything that needs to be expressed and does a phenomenal job acting against the CGI monster. Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is absolutely fantastic in her role as Conor's mother and her gradual decay is genuinely hard to watch.
The entire film is about a boy's love for his mother and the fear he has of losing her. Conor is at a difficult age, he's bullied at school and he's not sure how to express himself, so the added pressure of having a terminally ill makes Conor a character you immediately sympathise for. A Monster Calls perfectly addresses death and growing up in a way that a child can understand, it's a very serious and at times heartbreaking film, but one that mature children will definitely understand and appreciate.
A Monster Calls perfectly balances dark and realistic themes with fantastical elements to provide an engrossing and genuinely moving story about a boy overcoming fear, loss and heartache. I give A Monster Calls a 9.2/10.