Movie Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls is a decent adaptation that book fans would love thanks to great performances and impressive CGI, but new audiences will find an overwrought family drama that doesn’t provide enough thrills for kids.

12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall), dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness, a less-than-sympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), and bullying classmates, finds a most unlikely ally when a Monster appears at his bedroom window. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth.

It’s been a year of children with imaginary friends and people dealing with grief. A Monster Calls, adapted from a book by Patrick Ness, tackles the subject through a cancer drama and a coming of age story.

The visual effects are impressive, with a believable towering yew tree. He possess both a sense of wonder and danger, just like what a creature in a tale ought to be.

He’s voiced by Liam Neeson whose a perfect fit for the role. Lewis MacDougall nails every scene he’s in, but the rest of the cast ought not to be discounted. Sigourney Weaver makes a memorable turn as the grandmother despite little screen time.

While the technical elements of the movie paint a bleak yet relatable world that we all could learn from, the story that looks enchanting in a book doesn’t translate well to the screen.

In the book, the monster provides intriguing illustrations which readers would love and stands as a clever literary idea in a story for children. However in the movie, his purpose is an unnecessary motif in  a family drama that’s already effective by itself. He forces Conor to admit the truth, but it’s never clear what exactly is at stake here and what he would do if the child refuses.

The fans who enjoyed the book would love the faithful adaptation, but it may not appeal to new audiences. The monster has three tales that predictably ties up to obvious life lessons and it’s difficult to see kids enjoying a movie about a monster that keeps on getting interrupted by a weepy story.

While the adaption may not go well in converting new audiences, A Monster Calls still offers a relatable portrayal of the stages of grief through the personal journey of a child.

My Rating: 6/10

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