Verdict: A beautiful tale of the time when a Monster heals you.
Dealing with any kind of tragedy requires a great deal of inner strength. It is especially difficult when a kid is suffering. Siobhan Dowd, who was a well-renowned author of books for kids came up with an idea to write about a boy coping with a loved one's illness. As thrilling as the concept sounds, she almost delivered on her promise. However, when she started the book she was suffering from a terminal illness and before she could finish the book she succumbed to it. Patrick Ness, who is known for his YA and adult books picked up the reins and thus A Monster Calls was published in 2011. The book was well-received and some even called it a masterpiece. A movie on the novel was not a distant dream and half a decade later, it's finally here.
The movie begins with the question, "How does the story start?" and another voice responds, "It begins with a boy who was too old to be called a kid and too young to be called a man, and a nightmare." and we see Connor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) trying to save his mom Lizzie O'Malley (Felicity Jones) from falling into a hole and failing. He wakes up from the nightmare and we see him getting ready for school on his own with no sign of an adult in the house until he looks in on his mom who is resting. He's cruelly bullied at school, and when he comes back he finds his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) trying to convince his ill mom to let him stay with her. That night a Monster visits him (voiced by Liam Neeson) and tells him that he will tell Connor three stories and in turn, Connor has to tell him the truth behind his nightmare. Connor believes that the Monster might help in healing his mom and decides to go along.
Starting with the opening sequence, which should be noted will be counted one among the best, you know you are in for a magical treat. But magic comes with a price and along with all the magic comes some hard-hitting lessons in humanity, which stay with you. Connor is shown to have an affinity towards art and the Monster's stories are shown in a water-color-like animation. The makers aimed to achieve a contrast between the stories that are vivid and expressive and the part between them which is dull and that is quite apparent as the movie progresses. The Monster looks like a cross between Tolkein's Ent and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. He is voiced by Liam Neeson who has done a commendable job of breathing life into the character.
Patrick Ness has also written the screenplay for the movie and this is quite apparent because there are some details only an author would care to include when adapting a book into the movie and also stay as close as possible to the source material. The director J. A. Bayona who is known for movies like The Orphanage and The Impossible greatly impresses us with the tone of the movie and the ultra-smooth transitions between the animated and live-action scenes and sometimes even between the live-action scenes.
Felicity Jones as the mother is completely different from what we saw her in Rogue One. She carries the role of a terminally-ill mother with ease and her optimism and presence capture the scene when she is in it. For the other part, Lewis MacDougall steals the show by showcasing emotions like frustration, grief and managing the responsibilities of an adult while also getting incessantly bullied. It is very difficult to believe that this is just his second movie. Sigourney Weaver's brief appearance in the movie doesn't go unnoticed but Lewis manages to keep the focus on himself.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
If you love art, this masterpiece is worth your time. The not-so-sublime messages about humanity, grief and letting go not only will move you to tears but it will also clear a lot of things of the complicated creatures called humans. Watch it in order to understand that not all monsters are bad and sometimes they are just there to help you heal.