A Monster Calls is the type of film that trusts its audience, and requires a certain degree of patience. It’s a stark and honest portrayal of grief and loss, and uses the innovative techniques of metaphorical storytelling to tell a story. Although the film has some moments that can are predictable and could be accused of being emotionally manipulative, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t emotionally affected by this sprawling story.
Conor (Lewis McDougall) is a young boy who’s mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer, and is sent to live with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). Tormented by grief, Conor is visited by a surreal creature (Liam Neeson) who tells stories, giving insight into life. The story uses this creature to not only explore grief without feeling stale, and subverts expectations with some interesting dialogue. While some may accuse the dialogue of being on the nose, there’s so many genuine, emotional moments that key in on specific moments that are instantly relatable, from bullies to parenting.
Lewis McDougall proves to be a standout young performer, who gives a rare amount of depth seen in most adult adult performers, let alone child performers. The special effects used to realize the monster are incredible, and Liam Neeson’s vocal performance gives an added gravitas to the film. The impressive ensemble includes strong performances by Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, and the always underrated Toby Kebbell, all of who give impactful and memorable performances.
A Monster Calls is a risky film, a film that tells a truthful message with a subtlety that is rarely seen in this type of film. Is it the most original in terms of its subject material? No, but for anyone who’s ever known someone suffering from a disease, it’s a powerful experience. Grade: -A