From J.A. Bayona, the director of The Impossible, comes the story of a boy struggling to cope with his mothers illness whilst finding solace in the form of a tree monster who regales him with true stories from the past.
Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is a young boy bullied at school, facing his mothers (Felicity Jones) terminal illness with an estranged father (Toby Kebbell) and strict grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), who is finding it difficult to process this emotional point in his life. A budding artist with a creative eye Conor watches one night as a Yew tree close to his home comes to life and visits him. The tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) tells Conor he will return to tell three different stories across a series of nights, and in return the Conor must tell the monster his nightmare.
A Monster Calls is a feat of art and story telling, a gorgeous emotionally charged film superbly acted and directed. J.A. Bayona certainly solidifies himself as a remarkable talent to keep your eyes on (he is now directing the Jurassic World sequel). Lewis MacDougall is also a delightful revelation as Conor, delivering a mighty performance of which all the supporting roles gravitate around. He has now undoubtedly launched what looks to be a promising acting career. The film tackles some tough themes that will likely hit home for many, meaning if you’re looking for a touch of escapism you’re better off looking elsewhere. However that being said the film is not all gloom, as with each story the tree monster relays comes tremendous animated sequences which are hauntingly beautiful. Swirling paint and spattered ink entwine, dancing around the screen as tales of life, loss and love sear themselves into your mind.
As a coming of age drama A Monster Calls offers less levity than the likes of Stand by Me, which as a result retains a sombre atmosphere and tone throughout when we aren’t loosing ourselves in the relief of the animated stories. Though not always joyful to watch, it assists greatly in conveying Conor’s emotional strife throughout and packing the emotional punch so effectively. Despite the narrative following the emotional journey of a young boy, it’s a story relevant to all ages, and a one you should absolutely watch.