Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson
Director: J A Bayona
A story about grief and grieving for kids sounds like a hard sell, but this adaptation of a popular book by Patrick Ness focuses on deeper life truths to avoid the trite and mawkish.
Conor (MacDougall) is a kid who has grown up to fast as a child of a single parent (Jones) who is undergoing chemo. As he struggles to come to terms with his own feelings about the illness, his absent father and the interference of his cold grandmother (Weaver), he is visited by a yew tree monster (Neeson), who promises three stories in exchange for one from Conor. Desperate to finds answers, Conor agrees.
The stories that the tree tells are beautifully animated, and though in the guise of fairytales, they are not conventional. The tree tells about intervening in the lives of those who have asked him for help, but justice and truth are not simplistic, much like the life lessons that Conor is facing.
It’s a beautiful film, and never falls into the trap of being over emotional or cheesey, and I think it explores grief and dying in ways that are both truthful and soft enough for children to understand. Having read the book a while ago, I think it’s almost exactly the same, and Liam Neeson does a wonderful job of being a talking tree that may be either good or evil, or neither. I like the way the film is never really black and white, much like life.
See It If: you’ve ever struggled with your own grief, or if you love effects and animation. A beautiful modern fairytale.