Film Reviews

A Monster Calls (2016)

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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.

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13 thoughts on “A Monster Calls (2016)”

  1. This is an excellent film; a superb fable well told. It has a lot of sage wisdom and never becomes cloying. Love the third act which made all the parts came together brilliantly. I dropped tears at the end. Lewis MacDougall is such a revelation.

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  2. I have seen the trailer for this film, but did not yet get around to seeing it. From what you are describing and the things I saw in the trailer I think it will be an emotional rollercoaster, but still one worthy to take. I love movies such as these, even though at times they can heavily influence my mood. I recently rewatched Forrest Gump, and for some reason it hit pretty close to home, and my day was spent in melancholy. That said, only very powerful films can do this, and that is exactly the reason why I love movies so very much (that, and your blog ofcourse ;). Great and very interesting post 😊

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  3. I read the book awhile ago too and it really does pull on your heart string without becoming so overbearing with trauma that it’s at least a little easier to read it with courage. Being ill myself, I tend to avoid such movies usually but of course it’s hardly avoidable as most movies adapt to such trauma at some point in a characters life because it’s something we need to deal with in life. But your review made me realise it’s about time i got brave and watched it because it does look magnificent and the book was enchanting to say the least. ☺

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    1. ❤️ It’s not an easy thing to face, but it is a beautiful film. You might find it an intense experience because of your circumstances. I think it’s a good film about grief & loss, because of the gentle but realistic way it’s handled.

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      1. (Virtual hug) If I can get through horror and virus epidemic movies of choice, I think I can brave through this movie as I love the artistic aspect behind the story but those are sometimes ironically easier to watch as it’s a different type of scare. The book gave me a great imagination in itself. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly..which is what scares me as it becomes more personal but I shall be watching it very soon.

        “Stories are the wildest things of all, (the monster rumbled)..stories chase, bite and hunt”.

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