"A Monster Calls" is directed by J. A. Bayona and it's about a young boy named Conor who is dealing with the unfortunate situation of his mother being diagnosed with terminal cancer. In this time, Conor is visited by what is basically a tree monster who attempts to guide Conor through this time in his life and help him cope with every piece of adversity that happens to be in his way. This movie stars Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Sigourney Weaver, and Liam Neeson.
This is one of those movies that is having its official release here in January, but it's still considered a 2016 film given its limited release back in December. Every year there's always an acclaimed movie coming out that flies under most people's radars and it ends up not being seen due to a sketchy release date that varies in certain parts of the country. That's shown in this movie finishing in 13th place at the box office this past weekend, which is a shame considering that while January is notorious for some of the year's worst movies coming out every year, there's still at least one good film playing in theaters and "A Monster Calls" happens to be one of those films.
Young Lewis MacDougall plays Conor in this movie and this is a genuinely great child performance. I can rant all day about how bad kid actors can ruin movies, but MacDougall is an exception. A lot of scenes in this movie require him to just completely let loose all of his emotion and vent his frustrations and he pulls it off with finesse. Felicity Jones is great as per usual in the role of Conor's dying mother, Toby Kebbell is very likable as the estranged, yet still loving father, Sigourney Weaver does a surprisingly good job with a faux British accent, and Liam Neeson is nothing short of spectacular in his motion capture and voice-over work for the Monster.
What I especially liked about this movie is it's maturity. I think that you can take kids to this movie and they'll enjoy it fine enough, but the storytelling itself is done in a very subtle way that's more geared towards older audiences. This is one of those instances where the phrase "show, don't tell" comes to play and it definitely works to this movie's advantage. Hell, there are some very dark elements to this movie that may even disturb younger children, but it's not gratuitous in anyway. Every dark and fantastical element that's displayed is done so for good reason and it's to further the story, it being a story about mature things in life such as grief and death.
On that note, this movie is a legitimate tearjerker in some scenes. It being about a child and his mother's illness is emotional enough, but the execution is what drove it all home. This movie isn't afraid to delve into themes involving stuff like the loss of a loved one. In fact, this movie doesn't come out and sugarcoat things. There are harsh realities about life and death is one of them. But this movie teaches the importance of dealing with loss in the appropriate way, a lesson that's not only necessary for kids, but everyone in life. The best part is that it's not done in an overly sappy or cheesy way. It's very effective at being emotional, and I'm sure it will elicit come type of response from anyone who watches it.
In the end, "A Monster Calls" is a very good movie about pain, death, grief, and family that I highly recommend. Whether or not you're someone who's recently suffered some type of personal loss, this movie will emotionally touch you in some way and that's just about the highest praise I can give it. You don't even have to have suffered loss to go see this movie. Just go see it for the sake of being able to say that you saw a legitimately good film in the otherwise horrid month of January.
Rating: Full Price!