Film Review – A Monster Calls (2016)

A Monster Calls

Title – A Monster Calls (2016)

Director – J.A. Bayona (The Impossible)

Cast – Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, (Voice of) Liam Neeson

Plot – With his mother (Jones) dealing with a life threatening cancer, young boy Conor (MacDougall) finds strength and solace in his dealings with The Monster (voice of Neeson), a creature that is part tree and who begins telling Conor a series of mysterious stories.

“It is not important what you think. It is only important what you do”

Review by Eddie on 30/06/2017

At one stage or another it seemed as though A Monster Calls was set to become one of 2016’s breakout hits.

Positive reception from initial trailers through to a fair portion of glowing reviews, once The Orphanage and The Impossible director J.A Bayona’s film hit the public spectrum it only but enhanced this adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel of the same name chances of becoming a hit with a wide audience and even perhaps a hit with Academy voters.

Fast forward to now and A Monster Calls can officially be described as a box office dud that failed to make it into cinemas in Australia until now whilst barely making a dent in the box office overseas where it was largely forgotten about in the X-mas rush, despite a critical rating of over 80% on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.

A hard sell in many ways and an awkwardly targeted film, this is a movie that’s themes will go over many younger audience members heads and is perhaps too “fantasy” driven for some older audiences, Bayona’s visually arresting and sometime emotionally resonate film is a film that often feels torn between being too many things and while it’s hard not to appreciate elements of this unique take on the cancer drama sub-genre, you almost wish it had become more of master of one than a hodgepodge of too many ideas.

One thing that is mightily evident outside of Bayona and his teams impressive visual feats, especially when talking about Neeson’s CGI creation of the tree like Monster, is Bayona’s continued solid work with his performers and after drawing out such memorable turns from his young cast members in The Orphanage and The Impossible, its quite clear the director is a skilled developer of young actors.

Here led by Lewis MacDougall as young boy Conor who is struggling to cope with his mother’s (played impressively by Felicity Jones) life threatening cancer, Bayona extracts a memorable turn from the young performer who has to do a large amount of the films heavy lifting. While the film may struggle in ways to connect us at all times to its hybrid of metaphorical monsters, storytelling and dramatic family conundrums, the efforts of those involved here can’t be faulted.

Final say –

Elevated by a unique visual tone, memorable acting turns and some spot on voice work by Neeson, A Monster Calls is a solid film but one that could’ve been so much more.

If we look back but a few months, that talk about this film becoming a true classic seemed to be legitimately on point but this final product leaves one with a feeling of being let down even though emotions for some may run deep as the runtime draws its closing periods.

Still, Bayona is a director to get excited about and his upcoming sequel to Jurassic World should likely be quite the thrill ride.

3 destroyed lounge rooms out of 5

19 responses to “Film Review – A Monster Calls (2016)

  1. One of those films I loved on multiple levels. Incredible message about love, sacrifice and learning to let go. I think Lewis McDougall was one of the best actors last year -solid performance and film. Thanks for offering your review

    • To me it had some great elements and performances, but there was something amiss for me to really make it click emotionally like it could’ve and clearly did for some.

  2. At the risk of sounding heartless, I don’t think this film is one I would go out of my way for. I get the feeling that it probably tries to force you into some emotional catharsis. Good review, Eddie!

  3. I cannot agree about labelling this a dud. Its a brutally honest and gut-wrenching look at death and grief from the POV of a 13 year old kid. The CGI nonsense is merely a visual and cathartic fantasy that helps the boy deal with helplessness and hopelessness as his mother is dying. IMO its a minor masterpiece.

    • Certainly not a dud mate, box office wise it is though unquestionably.
      I liked a lot of elements of this film but for me just never connected emotionaly like I’d wished I had.

      • As you know, its impossible for any critic to not be affected by their own personal life story. If you have had to deal with the passing of loved ones, this film can be overwhelmingly powerful.

      • That’s the power of film at it’s finest, one of the great mediums in regards to being able to connect people emotionally to powerful stories.

  4. Pingback: Film Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) ** 1/2 | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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