How scary is the movie Monster Calls, A (2016) starring Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell?
I’ve lost family members to cancer, so I can relate to the plight of young Conor O’Malley as his mother slowly succumbs to the disease. As a coping mechanism, Conor summons a gigantic, tree-like creature to teach him the acceptance of loss.
I read Patrick Ness’ original novel shortly after its release, and as he also wrote the screenplay for the film, it’s about as close an adaptation as you could get, which works in its favor and, to a lesser extent, to its detriment.
My biggest question after watching A Monster Calls is: Whom is it for? Whilst it would be easy to write it off as a children’s film, as many have done, this has none of the charm or the cheer that you’d find in, say, Pete’s Dragon or The BFG. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way; I just think that either this isn’t aimed at kids or it was intended to teach them the harsh realities of life in a way that most other films of its ilk would go to great lengths to avoid because as we all know, in real life there are no happy endings. Monster or no monster, at the end of the day, this is a film about someone dying of cancer.
This seems like such an obvious thing to say for a film of this kind, but as Conor, Lewis MacDougall gave an amazing performance and certainly deserves all the awards he’s already been nominated for. And while there were some gaping gaps in logic regarding his character, such as him getting let off the hook for actions that should land him in a youth detention facility, and his school bullies, who seem like plot conveniences more than anything else, I still found Conor to be one of the most genuinely human protagonists that I’ve encountered in a long while.
But let’s face it; there’s one reason and one reason only why most people will watch A Monster Calls: the monster. Yup, the giant talking tree is certainly a spectacular sight to behold, even if, as many have pointed out, he resembles an overgrown version of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. But no joke, the titular creature here was one huge wooden pile of awesome. And as for Liam Neeson’s vocal performance? Well, 2hen you think of a giant talking tree monster, do you envision it as having any voice other than Liam Neeson’s?
And don’t worry; the monster is in this film a lot. Rest assured they didn’t just slap him in to get the shots for the trailer. He really is the star of the show, and I couldn’t get enough of him. This may be a film about death, but it also delivers a message of hope that we so very rarely encounter in real life. Most of us who have lost people to cancer wish we, too, could have a monster come and tell us stories. Highly recommended.