A Monster Calls (REVIEW)

A Monster Calls (REVIEW)

Written By Jacob Chimilar (Letterboxd: Sweetlows)

Based on a children's book by Patrick Ness who is also tasked with the screenplay as is now more and more the case these days. The story follows a young boy named Conor O'Malley whose mother is dying of cancer and he is left to go to school and be a good boy while his mother suffers. One day he is visited by a talking tree who tells him stories with life lessons to help him cope with his situation and at the end tell the tree a story based on the nightmares he has been having about his mother and himself.

This was a very visually interesting movie with great animation during the stories told by the tree. They felt like classic tales told in a beautifully stylized way. They were designed to teach Conor life lessons that would help him work up the courage to accept his feelings about what was going on with his mother but I didn't feel they accomplished that with the stories they chose as well as they did.

The acting was all great, Felicity Jones as the mother and Sigorney Weaver as the grandmother were both excellent choices and the little boy Conor O'Malley played by Lewis MacDougallwas suitably grief stricken and felt like a boy who didn't know what to do or how to fit in making him an excellent choice for such a character. Liam Neeson provides the voice for the tree and with some added grumble to his voice made for a convincingly menacing and authoritative presence.

While I did like both aspects of the film, I just didn't think they worked together as well as they should have. I applaud the effort though as they have crafted a suitably fantastical world in the animations and the relationship between the boy and the tree as well as the story between his grandmother, the school and his mother. I just wished they picked a side, spend the time with the tree or spend it with the parents and school.

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Overall this was a decent family movie that is a bit too down on itself. It didn't tug on my heartstrings as hard as it probably should have for a movie dealing with the loss of a love one. It felt too otherworldly and action-y to ground the weight in reality but it did try and put in a few lessons kids and even adults can learn or relearn about the importance of acceptance and how things aren't always so black and white when it comes to the truth. The problem is those two things didn't gel into one movie, and that made the impact of both less powerful.    

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