Punchy, profound and deeply enchanting, A Monster Calls is a home run for all involved – particularly a stacked cast who all give moving performances tied to a tricky subject, and a director who balances reality and fantasy with aplomb. An already great film comes into its own when we delve into the monster’s illustrated stories; these wondrous watercolours are spellbinding, and if the cast weren’t as fab as they are, you’d be forgiven for wishing the whole film was in this style.
Lewis MacDougall gives a powerful performance in the lead role, and adds himself to the growing list of amazing child actors in the business right now (between MacDougall, Jacob Tremblay and the Stranger Things kids, they should really follow up Ocean’s Ocho with a pint-sized con caper). MacDougall even manages to hold his own against the acting juggernaut that is Sigourney Weaver, who is as watchable and intimidating as she’s ever been – although her British accent needs more practice. Felicity Jones and Toby Kebbell also do great work here, as does Liam Neeson as the titular tree creature who comes a-calling.
J.A. Bayona has clearly been taking notes from his old friend Guillermo Del Toro, as the monster’s design is first-class, looking as volcanic as it does botanical. The visuals of A Monster Calls are top-notch, although excellent sound design deserves a share of the credit for creating the immersive worlds the film jumps between. From the guttural crack of every snapping branch, to the steady scratching of charcoal against paper, A Monster Calls is a treat for the eyes and ears.
A Monster Calls is the gift that keeps on giving, offering style and substance across the board, and wrapping up with a killer finish that won’t leave a dry eye in the house. Superb.
CAST: Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver
DIRECTOR: J.A. Bayona
WRITER: Patrick Ness (screenplay and novel)
SYNOPSIS: Conor O’Malley is a young boy who tries to deal with the terminal illness of his mother and the attacks by a local school bully. One night, Conor encounters a “monster” in the form of a giant humanoid yew tree who has come to tell him stories and soon begins to help Conor fix his unhappy life.