<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by J.A. Bayona. Starring Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Lewis MacDougall, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
A Monster Calls is no ordinary film about a boy and his friendly monster sidekick. It is a tale of a child’s disturbed psyche portrayed in a palatable form.
Little Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is a troubled young lad. His mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer and his stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) wants him to come live with her for a while. He doesn’t want to, since she’s an old fart. He draws – a skill he learnt from his artist mother – to express himself and he dreams. Dark dreams about the yew tree in the graveyard adjoining his house. It comes to life every night at 12:07 to tell him three tales that will teach him something about his mind. In return he must tell the ‘monster’ a fourth tale, a story about what really troubles his young mind.
Conor’s father left them and went off to America but then comes back to be with him and you learn more about the reasons for his isolation. He acts out, gets angry, stares eerily at another boy in his class at school. You wonder if he has a crush on this boy who at times bullied Conor but there’s something more to their ‘bond’ than is explained.
Liam Neeson as the monster lends a gravitas to the CGI tree creature that imbues him with an ominous but strangely dependable personality. The stories he tells are depicted as watercolour picture book animations that seem a tad out of place at times in between the live action and CGI. At first you’re not too sure where they’re leading till you realise similarities with the stories and real life.
Lewis Macdougall manages to emote the pathos and the loneliness of his life wonderfully. He is a troubled young boy, desperately seeking love and affection as well as some respect for being capable of adult cognition.
Felicity Jones doesn’t have the ample role she had in Rogue One but she plays the part of the ailing mother memorably. Sigourney Weaver is herself for the most part but adds a touch of humour to the film, which is much needed.
A Monster Calls has some plot holes like the lack of an animated storybook visualisation for the third story and a slightly complex explanation by the boy in his story. But it is a unique way to tell a story about depression and how it affects the young, who understand a lot more than we give them credit for.