Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson
Based on Patrick Ness’ award-winning novel of the same name, A Monster Calls tells the tale of Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall), a young boy trying to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) fight with cancer.
I’m just going to go straight into it, this film is absolutely stunning. Visually, structurally, literally. It is difficult to say anything other than go and watch this film. NOW.
With just a small number of feature film credits under his belt, J.A Bayona really stamps his make with this film. The first I had seen of him was The Impossible, his gritty retelling of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This being his follow up, 4 years later, I expected to sit through 113 minutes of heartwrenching angst, and I was right.
Having powered through this book a few years ago, and absolutely falling in love with Patrick’s work, I had high expectations for this adaptation. The book brought out so many emotions in me, and I am pleased to say that the film managed to evoke exactly the same.
During the film the monster (Liam Neeson’s version of Treebeard) regales three tales in the hopes that Conor will take away some important life lessons that apply to his own situation. These tales were beautifully depicted through the use of watercolour style sfx – such an appropriate and powerful medium that really highlights the overarching theme of the film; a love and passion of art. The tales at times hit a very dark tone, however brings to light life altering messages that surprise not only Conor, but also the majority of the audience watching (not me, I already knew what would happen).
As Lewis MacDougall’s first lead role, this is one with great depth and quality. Having learnt that Lewis had himself lost his own Mother to cancer, I went into this film with a great deal of respect. For a young person of any kind, let alone an actor, losing a parent is a traumatic experience that you couldn’t bare to imagine. But then to have to dig back into the emotions that you felt for a role of this magnitude is something that takes a lot of bravery and incredible amount of dedication to your craft. Lewis manages to evoke a range of emotion to a standard that most adult actors are still unable to do even after years of practice.
Coming off the back of her success with Rogue One, this role is a far cry from the rebellious, headstrong Jyn for Felicity Jones. Despite that, I think this is possibly one of her most well-rounded roles to date. Even with little verbal material to work with, Felicity portrays a lot through her facial expressions – a talent that is very difficult to master even for the best Hollywood has to offer. Her killer quote (and this slayed me in the book) direct from the trailer: “I wish I had a hundred years. A hundred years I could give to you.”, brought down even the hard-hearted in my screening. Following that line we didn’t go 2 minutes without a sniffle.
The Grandmother is the ‘villain’ in this story. However, for all her annoying (and sometimes downright cruel) attributes, Sigourney Weaver has a way of causing my tear-ducts to well up. She played the authoritative matriarch of the family with such ferocity, but it was the Mother/Daughter scenes that stood out for me most.
This film has one aim; to educate, and it does it with the utmost class and grace. I certainly came out of it with a new outlook on ‘perspective’. The idea that there are always two (sometimes even three) sides to every story is something that is important for everyone to consider in every life situation – believe me, it can really open your eyes to what’s really important.
Spoiler alert: Liam Neeson plays two characters in this film. I’m not going to tell you who, keep your eyes peeled, but it is a perfect inclusion on Bayona’s part.
A Monster Calls in in cinemas now.