Film Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Release Date: 1 January 2017 (UK) 

Genre: Fantasy, Drama

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Synopsis: 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones) is ill. He has little in common with his imperious grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). His father (Toby Kebbell) has resettled thousands of miles away. But Conor finds a most unlikly ally when the Monster (portrayed by Liam Neeson) in performance-capture and voiceover) appears at his bedroom window one night. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Coner on a journey of courage, faith, and truth that powerfully fuses imagination and reality. (Official Website)

Review: I was invited to a preview of A Monster Calls earlier this week and was blown away by so many things in this movie! The film is based on the novel by Patrick Ness, author of bestselling Chaos Walking Trilogy. Interestingly, the idea for the novel actually belongs to Siobhan Dowd, author of classic YA books Bog Child and A Swift Pure Cry. After Dowd’s untimely death, Patrick stepped in and finished the book with credits to her idea.

I have to start with the acting. I was so so impressed by Lewis MacDougall as Conor. He portrayed the anguish of a teen trying to survive school and family woes whilst dealing with his mother’s terminal illness.I was totally struck by MacDougall’s raw talent and cannot wait to see him in more things – I predict a solid rise to fame for him. 🙂 This movie has a stellar cast of big names joining MacDougall including Felicity Jones who plays her character with such grace and poise, Sigourney Weaver as the stern but beleaguered grandmother, and Liam Neeson as the Monster. They were all phenomenal in their roles, their performances, especially Jones’s, was understated and just worked. Because of the way the film was directed by J.A. Bayona, (The Orphanage) at times I completely forgot they were acting because they fully became their characters.

And if you need to break things, then, by God, you break them.

The novel is known for its exploration of some pretty heavy themes like illness, grief, divorce and bullying. But my absolute favorite is how it explores the grey areas of morality – how sometimes people can be both good and bad and the book does this without ever coming across as patronising. This is what I think made the novel such a winner amongst people of all ages in the first place – it truly is an important idea for all of us to understand and I think it is so bravely tackled by Ness in A Monster Calls. Although the book deals with these difficult issues the movie handles it deftly and beautifully – it was neither heavy-handed nor did it shy away from reality, exactly like in the book.  

I love how imagination is such a big part of this movie and it really takes you back to a time when you were younger and thought was pretty unrestricted. I felt *all* of the emotions during this movie – it was heartbreaking, charming, moving and magical and so many more things all at the same time. I loved how although it is a fantasy, the thing that I took from it was an exploration of what it means to be human and inherently complex.

Of course you are afraid, but you will make it through, for this is why you called me…

The original novel has a brilliant illustrated version with illustrations by Jim Kay. Bayona does justice to the messages in the novel and made them resonate on a grander scheme by bringing the beautiful illustrations to life in such a visual way through stunning watercolour. I was totally mesmerised during these scenes, and I found it reminiscent of the Tales of Beedle the Bard scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film – easily one of my favourite bits in the entire film series. The cinematography in this movie is done so well that at times I forgot I was in a cinema watching with lots of other people because I’d become totally immersed in the drama on screen! 

This is one of those movies that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it! I’ve given it 5 stars – it’s a faithful adaptation and doesn’t try to overdo the drama just because it’s on the big screen. All of the actors give solid performances and I would recommend it just for the visual smorgasboard it offers alone! 

Are you planning to watch A Monster Calls? Have you read the original novel by Patrick Ness? What bits are you most looking forward to seeing on screen? Drop me a comment below!

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