Lewis MacDougall is a troubled child. He is getting bullied at school, his single mother is becoming increasingly unwell with a terminal illness and he must face the prospect of moving in with his Grandma whom he has nothing in common with. He suffers from experiencing the same nightmare over and over again and unwittingly he summons Liam Neeson in tree monster form to help him overcome his obstacles.
Well five films into 2017 and for me it has properly kicked off now. A Monster Calls is quite simply a masterpiece. There is no real other way of describing it. It’s beautiful and moving, it speaks a truth that so many movies would shirk away from. A more honest movie about grief I have never seen. And while this isn’t for young viewers it is going to accessible and important for children above 12. Although I would advise parents saw this first because at the end of the day only you know your child.
Much of the publicity surrounding this film has touched upon it being a tearjerker. Now, I tend to cry at most movies anyway (Inception, Storks and Penguins of Madagascar have all invariably brought a tear to my eye) so I was fairly war of the effects this was going to have on me. From about ten minutes in the waterworks were in full function. Now had I’ve been on my own watching this, I would have just let go and started sobbing. But I was not alone. I was in a cinema with maybe ten other people. So I attempted to make a conscious effort not to audibly cry. In my mind the whole time was “Disconnect! Disconnect! Look at the cinematography, the composition, look at the use of quadrants!” but it was too late. Like the tendrils of the tree wrap around Lewis MacDougall as the stories were told, this movie wrapped around me. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried quite this much at a movie before. I had to sit and watch the whole of the credits just to compose myself.
Every single performance in A Monster Calls is absolutely wonderful. For a child actor to pull off a film containing such emotional weight as this one takes some strength and courage and Lewis MacDougall is a revelation. We previously saw him as Peter Pan’s best friend in Pan, it is now clear that really he should have been in the lead role. Liam Neeson channels his full Treebeard here and adds such weight to the three fables. You realise that you would pretty much listen to Neeson read you anything and it would seem magnificent. Sigourney Weaver is impeccable, Toby Kebbel is as always brilliant but so much of the film revolves around Lewis and Felicity Jones as the mother. Jones manages to play a completely honest portrayal of a terminal victim without ever overdoing it. It would be so easy for this movie to become plain sentimentality porn, but it’s completely reserved and subtle with its handling of her condition.
You all need to see A Monster Calls right now. Don’t go in thinking that all you are going to do is cry, because while you are going to cry it is at its heart a fantastical fairy tale about a boy and his monster that deals with heavy issues of isolation and loss. It’s a hard film to watch in the sense that it’s extremely emotional, but it is never gruelling. Quite simply it is a masterpiece.