Review: A monstrous treat and a real tear-jerker

Liam Neeson voices the monster
Liam Neeson voices the monster
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Matt Adcock reviews A Monster Calls (12A)

“The story begins with a boy, too old to be a kid, too young to be a man. A boy who called a monster…”

A Monster Calls kicks off 2017 with a powerful and emotional tale of wisdom which deals with life. Seen through the eyes of young Conor (Lewis ‘Pan’ MacDougall), his existence is one of misery as cruel and unfathomable events threaten to break him, drive him mad with the feeling of helplessness. Stuck in a small UK village where his mother (Felicity ‘Rogue One’ Jones) is ill and not getting better, his father (Toby ‘Warcraft’ Kebbell) has left them for a new life in America and the only attention he gets at school is regular beatings from his bully classmates.

Conor is tired all the time, his sleep every night broken by a nightmare where his mother is swallowed up by an earthquake and he isn’t strong enough to save her. What’s a lad to do with only his imagination and his strict grandmother (Sigourney ‘Chappie’ Weaver) looking out for him.

Then one night an incredible, huge ‘Lord of the Rings Ent-like’ tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) comes to visit and challenges him to hear three tales before facing his own difficult truth.

A Monster Calls is a visual marvel – channeling the art style from the bestselling novel about love, loss and hope from the double Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness. The tale might deal in tough life situations but it uses fantasy to deliver deep wisdom and a strong life lesson for all ages about how: ‘There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.’

The monster’s tales challenge Conor’s thinking and provide a ton of talking points for you to consider or discuss afterwards. Faith, truth and the power of stories which are described as ‘wild creatures’ are depicted in a watercolour world that is wonderful to behold.

A Monster Calls is an astonishing and highly impactful film with an emotional core that deserves a wide audience. You’ll be moved, challenged and maybe shed a tear or two. This is a great alternative to the wham-bang action spectacles out there and a monster tale which is a wild tale indeed and will engage on many levels. Vital viewing!