A Monster Calls: Film Review

I had heard from friends who saw A Monster Calls at the London Film Festival that it was a tearjerker so I was prepared and brought tissues, which was 100% needed. If I hadn’t been in a press screening environment I would have ugly cried like a baby but I managed to keep my dignity. Anyone who doesn’t cry at this beautiful film are cold-hearted sods.

Lewis MacDougall stars as Conor, a young teenage boy who is bullied at school, living with a sick and deteriorating mum (Felicity Jones) and the prospect of having to move in with his cold grandma (Sigourney Weaver). One night the tree he can see from his bedroom window comes alive to tell him a story and he continues to do so for a few days to help Conor cope with what’s happening.

This is absolutely heartbreaking and the extraordinary performance by MacDougall drives the sadness home even more. You know how it’s going to end but you can’t be mentally prepared for Conor’s reaction, which is just devastating. He keeps up this brave front for most of the movie but the tree (voiced by Liam Neeson) eventually makes him be honest and open up about his fears. Jones also puts in a powerful performance as the incredibly sick mother, Weaver was good but her British accent faltered often, and Toby Kebbell, Conor’s dad, finally shows off some decent acting skills – I’ve never rated him before!

The film also looks amazing, especially the watercolour animation used for the stories and the CGI of the tree and the collapsing church yard. While it is mostly sad and quite depressing and you feel sorry for Conor the entire time, there are some nice, welcome moments of laughter. I also liked how you were never sure what was imagination and what wasn’t and the ending keeps this ambiguous.

I’m glad the film didn’t go on much longer because it is quite slow-moving and so sad. Admittedly, the story portions can drag and I did switch off watching those but the rest of it wasn’t remotely boring. It was powerful as hell. I just don’t really know who would watch it because it seems aimed at kids but I think they would find it too miserable and dull and it looks too much like a children’s film to appeal to adults.

In cinemas Sunday 1st January 

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