A Monster Calls is an emotional fantasy drama. It is a film about storytelling, and it is wonderfully crafted.
Conor is struggling to deal with his mother’s illness, whilst having a tough time at school. When a monster comes to visit him just after midnight, hoping to teach Connor the truth through stories…
Based on novel by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls it perfectly blends a genuinely emotional drama with fantasy elements. The two compliment each other very well in director J.A. Bayonne’s capable hands. The story unfolds at a good pace, as Connor must come to terms with his mother’s illness. The opening dream sequence gives a small taste of things to come, and is a startling beginning.
A Monster Calls has an feel of A Christmas Carol in its set up of the repeated visits. It is refreshing to watch a family film that deals with serious issues without shying away or sugarcoating themes. Some aspects are predictable, but the film is crafted in a way which makes this not matter.
The film is a combination of live action, CGI and animation. The animated sequences are wonderfully rendered, give a real fantasy tone to the film. There is a lot of symbolism in the film. There are also repeated motifs, which tie in neatly to the overall narrative. The score works well, although it is slightly overblown in the finale. These scenes are emotional enough without requiring the extra push. Indeed, some of the scenes without it are the most effective.
Lewis McDougall delivers an impressive performance as Conor. Sigourney Weaver also puts in a good turn as his grandmother. Liam Neeson is a great choice for voicing the monster. Performances throughout the film are strong.
A Monster Calls conveys the difficulty in facing uncomfortable truths in unfortunate circumstances. J.A. Bayona has delivered a poetic and engaging film.
A Monster Calls is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.