A boy attempts to deal with his mother's illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping to a fantastical world.
|Title||:||A Monster Calls|
|Release Date||:||October 7, 2016|
|Production Co.||:||River Road Entertainment, Participant Media, Apaches Entertainment, La Trini|
|Production Countries||:||Spain, United States of America|
|Director||:||Juan Antonio Bayona|
|Writers||:||Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness|
|Casts||:||Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson, Geraldine Chaplin, Jennifer Lim, James Melville, Lily-Rose Aslandogdu, Dominic Boyle, Max Gabbay, Oliver Steer, Ben Moor, Frida Palsson|
|Plot Keywords||:||based on novel, monster, dream, grandmother grandson relationship, artist, nightmare, tree, boy, truth, terminal illness, bullying, bully, disease, death of mother, grandmother, imagination, child, animated sequences|
A Monster Calls Reviews
- "I'll. Be. Right. Here."by 5 January 2017on
84 out of 99 people found the following review useful:
The worst thing about this movie is its title. The second worst thing about this movie is its trailer. Both will either a) put people off seeing it (it succeeded in that with my wife for example) or b) make people conclude it is a 'nice holiday film to take the kids to', which is also an horrendous mistake!
This is a crying shame because it is a riveting drama and a superb piece of film-making that may well catapult it already into my top 10 films of 2017. But it is not, I would suggest, a film that is remotely suitable for kids under 10 to see, dealing as it does with terminal illness, bullying and impending doom. For this is a dark (read pitch black) but hauntingly beautiful film.
Lewis MacDougall, in only his second film (after last year's "Peter Pan") plays Conor - a young but talented and sensitive artist growing up as a 12 year old in the North of England with his single mum (Felicity Jones). She is suffering from an aggressive form of cancer and is forever medically grasping for a new hope (D'ya see what I did there?). Young Conor believes fervently that each new treatment will be 'the one' but the building tension, the lack of sleep and his recurrent nightmares are destroying him mentally and physically. As if this wasn't enough, his distracted nature is leading to him being seriously bullied at school and there is the added stress of having to live in his grandmother's pristine and teen-unfriendly house when his mother is hospitalised.
Towering over the nearby graveyard on the hill is an ancient yew tree and Conor is visited after midnight by this "monster" (voiced by Liam Neeson). Is he dreaming, or is it real? The tree dispatches wisdom in the form of three 'tales', with the proviso that Conor tell the tree the fourth tale which "must be the truth".
A tale of grief, guilt and a search for closure, this is a harrowing but rewarding journey for the viewer.
The film is technically outstanding on so many levels:
- the art design is superb, with the gorgeous 'tale animations' being highly reminiscent of the beautiful ones in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1";
- the use of sound is brilliant, with sudden silence being used as a weapon with which to assault the senses in one key sequence; - the cinematography by Oscar Faura ("The Imitation Game") is faultless, capturing both the dreary reality in a Northern winter with the comparative warmth of the strange dream-like sequences;
- the music by Fernando Velázquez is used effectively and intelligently to reflect the sombre mood;
- the special effects team led by Pau Costa ("The Revenant", "The Impossible") shines not just with Neesen's monster, but with the incorporation of the root and branch effects into the 'normal' surroundings.
As the BFG illustrated, having a whole film carried by a young actor is a bit of an ask, but here Lewis MacDougall achieves just that like a seasoned pro. His performance is nothing short of staggering and - although a brave move by the Academy - it would be great to see him nominated for a BAFTA acting award for this.
Confirming her position in the acting top-flight is Felicity Jones, heart-wrenching in her role of the declining mum, and Sigourney Weaver is also excellent as the po-faced but grief-stricken grandmother. Liam Neeson probably didn't add much by getting dressed up in the mo-cap suit for the tree scenes, but his voice is just perfect as the wise old sage.
The only criticism of what is an absorbing and intelligent script is the introduction of Conor's Dad, played by Toby Kebbell (Dr Doom from "The Fantastic 4"), who is literally flown in from LA on a flying visit but whose role is a little superfluous to the plot.
This is exactly what "The BFG" should have been but wasn't. It draws on a number of potential influences including "Mary Poppins"/"Saving Mr Banks" and "ET". Wise, clever and a thing of beauty from beginning to end, this is a treat for movie-goers and a highly recommended watch. However, if you have lost someone to "the Big C" be aware that this film could be highly traumatic for you..... or highly cathartic: as I'm not a psychiatrist, I'm really not that sure! Also, if you are of the blubbing kind, take LOTS of tissues: the film features the best use of a digital clock since "Groundhog Day" and if you are not reduced to tears by that scene you are certifiably not human.
(For the graphical version of this review, please check out http://bob- the-movie-man.com).
- One of the most impressive coming of age story I've ever seenby 14 October 2016on
71 out of 93 people found the following review useful:
Been quite long since the last time I wrote something about anything, but I guess this one deserves a bit more words than others.
Every once in a while you might watch something that absorbed you completely and got you thinking about it. Not because it's perfect but because it touched you personally.
A Monster Calls tells a story about a boy named Conor who has to cope with his mom's illness while going through his adolescence. Sounds like a typical coming-of-age story, but it's not. Bayona has created one of a kind, exquisite, complex and profound story for all ages while at the same time didn't forget to look gorgeous (I'd totally buy their watercolor artworks) and well-acted. The most impressive part of the movie for me wasn't the technicality but the emotion and imagination involved while creating this.
But at the end of the day, Bayona won me over simply by reminding us all that sometimes it's when you hold something closest to you that you're finally able to let it go.
- Absolutely blown awayby 14 December 2016on
59 out of 73 people found the following review useful:
When I first walk into theater, I was not expecting much of this. Yeah, the first moments were so cliché I thought this would just be a mediocre movie at best. But after the movie, everything changed, and this became one of the best movies I've seen in years The director use beautifully rendered CGI to deliver the emotions of a struggling young boy coping with reality. It was already a hard concept that few movie successfully delivered, and yet he make so many people I know broke down in tears. Moreover, he also make use of the visual to express the incredibly complicated yet meaningful plot of the movie, constantly changing between fantasy and reality, truth and lies, acceptance and the growing of a boy into adulthood. The main actor while only a young man has already show signs of greatness, you can only wonder if he had already gone through all of this. He also actually took the time to developed each character, making the audiences attach to each and everyone of them. Which is why the ending was even more dramatic and sad for many of us And the soundtrack, oh man, the soundtrack just hit me where it really feels, this is probably the best part of this movie. Whether it's total silence for contemplation of characters or full- on orchestral work for the climax or the sad violin, man, they totally nailed it.
- Only truths will quench the fires of the heartby 16 October 2016on
55 out of 69 people found the following review useful:
A scary looking tree in the middle of a graveyard haunts the dreams of a little boy, Conor, who already has enough troubles while awake. A mother (Felicity Jones) with terminal cancer, bullies, absent father, dictatorial grandma (Sigourney Weaver) and now a threatening monster (Liam Neeson) to visit him at night; poor Conor does not have a lot going for him. On the plus side, the monster has only three stories to tell, yet when finished he insists that Conor tell a story of his own that reveals the truths in his heart. The monster's stories touch upon themes gnawing at Conor; the good and bad in every person, the consequences of actions and an invisible man who becomes more invisible by being seen. Still Conor refuses to acknowledge the truths. "You don't know me," he shouts "these stories are not real!" The monster then lays down the law, "I know everything about you, now speak the truth or die!"
A Monster Calls includes some amazing visual effects, fantastic scenes and brilliant dialogue. The film explores in compelling and thrilling ways how fantasy combines with reality, how people deal with their fears (for better and worse) and the tremendous power of stories. The actors are convincing and captivating and Neeson's voice is mesmerizing. You'd rob a bank if his voice told you to. Animation is used to illustrate the monster's stories. A Monster Calls is based on a novel by Patrick Ness. Seen at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
- Eccentric, Eerie and Hauntingly Beautifulby 10 September 2016on
47 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
As a fan of J.A. Bayona's previous work "The Impossible", I had fairly high expectations for this and to say that I am astonished would be an understatement. "A Monster Calls" is based on the book that Patrick Ness published in 2011. After this breathtaking adventure I assure you, You will be inclined to read the book. As this is an adventure that builds on your emotions and thrives on your imagination. Conner is a young man that is trying to cope with the fact that his mother who is diagnosed with a terminal illness isn't long for this world. But as his mind races with fears and his imagination takes hold, he creates a creature that would give adults nightmares, But as he realizes the creature is friendly, He grows close to the "monster".
This is one of those movies that must be seen in theaters, mainly because it's two hours of escape from reality, where you can turn the page back, to a time where your imagination used to run wild. A time when, your biggest responsibilities were picking up your socks. In other words, a time when you were really free.
- One of the most emotionally powerfully films I've seen in a whileby 10 December 2016on
39 out of 52 people found the following review useful:
Based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls is one of the most emotionally powerful films I've seen in a long time. Directed by J. A. Bayona, this is a film you'll want to be making sure you have a pack of tissues ready for.
Conor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) lives at home with his terminally ill mother (Felicity Jones). Bullied relentlessly at school on a daily basis and with no friends, Lewis finds himself spending most of the free time he does have helping his mother.
One night, Conor encounters a monster (Liam Neeson) in the form of a giant yew tree. With the help of the monster, Conor learns a number of valuable life lessons, as well as facing the nightmarish reality he knows will come soon enough.
Reports of A Monster Calls causing audiences to flood theatres with tears during the festival circuit have been well documented however, even they couldn't prepare me for J. A. Bayona's stunningly beautiful film. The warning of emotional distress was even there for all to see as the classification certificate appeared on screen prior to the film.
This is an incredibly moving story, depressing for the most part however, thanks to the fantasy elements of the story and the relationship Lewis has with the monster, it can be strangely uplifting at times. The film packs one hell of an emotional punch towards the end but it doesn't just spring it on the audience because you can sense that is exactly where it's going from the very beginning.
The performances of Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell are all good but there is no debating here that the film ultimately belongs to the young Lewis MacDougall, who manages to deliver a performance that would make you think he's been acting for years, when this is in fact only his second film. MacDougall really makes you empathise with Conor and his performance in the final stages of the film is sensational.
The visuals deserve a special mention as well, the monster in particular brought to life quite brilliantly through special effects and a gruff vocal performance from Liam Neeson. They go hand- in-hand with Bayona's visionary style as a director to make A Monster Calls a must-see film.
- Like an true nightmare, A Monster Calls has a lot of dark beauty within it's tragedyby 9 January 2017on
23 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
The traces of crayon and markers on paper will tell you a lot of thing you need to know about the child that drew it. You'd be surprised by how much a drawing of a horse or a sloppy house can tell what any kid would like. I remember during the third grade, my teacher noted several sketches I've done of space aliens and flying pizzas invading over an unnamed city. She actually asked if this was supposed to be about a fear of meeting new people and by going back to a slice of cheese pizza, I was ignoring new things. I only said that I liked aliens and pizza.
As I've said, drawings may not always say a lot, but they do something. It depends on the person and the emotions their going through. I can only interpret that my crude sketch only said that I was board and would rather make up something weird to pass the time. My friend too did his own drawings, but his were a lot darker. Whenever I asked, he simply said, "their just cool", despite that their darker imagery frightened me. It would be several years later when I found out that his father had passed away. Perhaps A Monster Calls reflects perfectly well what my friend went through.
Twelve-year-old Conner O'Malley (played by Lewis MacDougall) loves his mother and does his best to care for her, given her terminal illness and his determination to see her get better. His mother Lizzie (played by Felicity Jones) has told her son several stories and encouraged his artistic talent. His grandmother (played by Sigourney Weaver) also does her best to tend to her daughter and grandson, even though Conner see's her as something of an unsympathetic witch. On top of that, Conner is also the target of a bully.
One evening at the strike of 12:07, he sees a giant, tree-like creature rise out of a church graveyard and comes to the boy's house. The monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) tells Conner that he'll tell him three stories and that when the time comes, a fourth must be given in return. Though Conner see's this creature in a reoccurring nightmare, he shows no fear, probably due to his early maturity. In conjunction with the Monster's visits, Conner's grandmother and father (played by Toby Kebbell) come to realize that Lizzie may not make it much longer. Conner allows the monster to tell him the stories, with the hope that his mother can be saved.
When I was watching A Monster Calls, I was surprised by how much it made me think about Where The Wild Things Are. Not because their similar movies, but because their both family oriented movies that feel very mature and adult. This is what I like about A Monster Calls. Like a lot of nightmares one would have, the visions that the child has of the monster (which is cool looking, though he looks similar to Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy) connect incredibly well to the events that he's going through. It's a master class of great screen writing and editing.
A Monster Calls will defiantly feel heavy to a lot of kids that are going to see this. Their going find themselves watching something sad, but I hope that parents see this as important. Lewis MacDougall manages to carry a lot of the heavy emotions that the story requires of him and pulls off a performance that's better then a lot of adult actors. As an audience member, I wanted to see where his story was going to go and was sad to see it end. You know a movie is good when your sad that it ended.
I'll give this ten sketches of the monster out of ten. I can't stress with how beautiful this movie is. It's full of story that should help a lot of people going through with someone's terminal illness or their own. I can only say that this is geared towards older kids (probably over the age of ten would be best) and I doubt that they won't get something out of this. See if A Monster Calls is worthy of your life story and check it out.
- Emotionally Honestby 5 January 2017on
24 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
A Monster Calls is the rare movie geared toward a younger demographic which refuses to pull an emotional punch. The movie explicitly states that the protagonist, Connor O'Malley, is "too old to be a kid and too young to be a man". The introductory tagline is the perfect way to relay the film's tone to the audience. From the brutally honest acting to the gorgeously animated "stories", A Monster Calls allows raw emotion to emanate from the experience. Magic on the screen happens due to the unique specificity of our hurt hero. The fantastical elements found in a typical family movie organically merge with the painful reality of adulthood. For example, a fight will begin building up in Connor and the anger will call out the monster. The monster is never a simple vicarious outlet for the young adult. Instead, the monster is a well-executed manifestation of perceived guilt towards a deeper truth. Liam Neeson's monster revels in the humanity of the moment while also holding a magnifying glass up to it. Life continues to get worse for Connor and each appearance leads to a gradual slip of harsh reality. Refreshingly, A Monster Calls never hides that uncovering important personal insight is a painful process. The climax makes up for one of the most touching revelatory moments in modern cinema. The value of the film is revealed in how both children and adults in the audience gain a better understanding of the inherently personal nature of grief. The way we deal with a loss can come across as something else entirely for ourselves. A wide release of the film will hopefully begin to kindle in an audience a desire for introspective cinema. In a sense, specific scenarios are able to paradoxically tap into a universally human truth. Movies like A Monster Calls show a better alternative to the next soulless generic blockbuster movie.
- "And if you need to break things, then by God, you break them."by 9 November 2016on
26 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
As someone who had read the book and really liked it, I found the movie as compelling and it excels at additions that are not in the novel such as the last scene which happened after the ending of the book. However, they also removed some good parts from the book, but were offset by visuals and score and the spot on performances of the characters especially Lewis MacDougall (Conor) who nailed his role in the movie. He sure knows how to cry. And that needs pointing out as a lot of kids in movies are sometimes annoying and difficult to watch. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) and Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) who were both Academy Award Best Actress nominees were as good as anyone would expect them to be. And Liam Neeson's voice was the perfect choice for the monster's. Haunting, cold, deep, and soothing. Also, the other thing I found striking was how the book played out as a movie. Aside from a few differences (the adds and minuses), almost everything else is as what the book is. Impactful scenes as how they were narrated and readers imagine them to be and dialogue and life lessons as how they were said in the book were same as in the movie. If you have read and liked the book, then watch this. If you have not, watch it still, as long as you have a heart and know what you're getting into, chances are you'll like this gem of a movie.
- A beautiful modern tale suffering from focus issuesby 26 September 2016on
35 out of 59 people found the following review useful:
The trailer for this movie was perfect, a real tearjerker focusing on exactly what the synopsis says: a little boy coming to terms with his mother's terminal illness with the help of his imagination. As someone who just lost his mother to cancer I was sobbing while watching the trailer and put this movie on my "must-see" -list. Unfortunately, the movie left me a bit cold.
First the good parts. The relationship between the boy (Connor) and the monster works very well and the animations that go along with the monster's stories are absolutely gorgeous. I'm usually quite sceptical about combining different visual elements because it rarely works but here the tone and amount is just perfect. Another aspect of the film that works is the chemistry between the dying mother and her son. Oddly enough, this is the movie's biggest flaw since the mother has such a small part in the storyline.
The first half of the movie strikes as unfocused, as if the director didn't know what he wanted to say. Quite often movies based on novels suffer from lack of focus because the director was unable to cut away portions from the source material. That is also the case with A Monster Calls. The heart of the story, the mother, is pushed aside in the very first minutes and we are introduced to a number of characters that add nothing to the story. More screen time is given to school bullies than to the mother which seems very odd. Apparently the director couldn't help himself and just had to dwell in bullying. A pattern which seems to be a norm in children's movies. Then we are introduced to the father, a character completely irrelevant to the story. His only purpose is to show that Connor comes from a broken family. I haven't read the novel the film is based on, so I can not say what his purpose was supposed to be. Perhaps his role was to showcase how important the mother was for the boy, since she's the only parent he's got. None of that comes through in the film, though. The father walks in and out, amounting to nothing.
Then there's the grandmother who is introduced as an uptight caricature with too many minutes wasted on stressing her strictness. This is a real shame since the character also provides the most heartfelt moments in scenes establishing the shared grief she and Connor both feel. Something really amazing could've been accomplished with this pairing without the needless "evil grandmother" tropes. A real missed opportunity, I feel.
Once the film has established just how hard a life Connor has, the focus goes back to where it should have always been: the mother and Connor's acceptance of her state of health. This is clearly the strong point of the story and the ending is executed beautifully. The emotional impact of the last half an hour or so also reminds the viewers of how impactful the entire film could've been had the father been reduced to a side mention and the minutes dedicated for school bullies cut in half in order to raise the profile of the mother. By doing so, A Monster Calls could've accomplished something groundbreaking by talking about cancer to children, many of whom will unfortunately be affected by it. This message, however, gets lost with the director juggling with too many elements.
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