A Monster Calls

By Angie Raphael

3.5 stars

The real takeaway from this film is its inspiring message about dealing with the gamut of emotions experienced during times of grief. A Monster Calls encourages people to vent their feelings, whether they are good or bad. It is a “family film” but is not for very young children because they will not understand the depth of the adult themes explored. Conor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is a lonely 12-year-old boy who is bullied at school. His mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer, his father (Toby Kebbell) rarely sees him and his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) is cold towards him. But one night, The Monster (Liam Neeson), who is a giant tree, enters Conor's life, saying he will tell the boy three stories and then Conor must reveal his own dark truth. Each story The Monster tells explores the complexity of human nature and has its own little moral message. Author Siobhan Dowd created the story but died before she could write it, leaving Patrick Ness to write the novel and the screenplay. Spanish Director J. A. Bayona makes good use of the special effects and also uses paper cut-out animation during the stories. Neeson's booming voice adds gravitas to the tree creature, while Jones is sweet and MacDougall has no problem carrying the film. Unfortunately, Weaver's accent slips too often and it is jarring. A Monster Calls may work well as a novel, but as a film, it is difficult to market. There is an audience for the film, but it does not have wide appeal.