Make sure you bring a big pack of tissues to the theater, because you’ll need all of them for this hauntingly emotional film. “A Monster Calls,” directed by J.A. Bayona, and based off of the book by Patrick Ness, is one of the most emotionally powerful films in years.
With stars such as Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Lewis MacDougall, “A Monster Calls” is packed full of unforgettable performances, heart-wrenching emotion and colorful stories, deserving recognition in the Academy Awards.
Twelve-year-old Connor O’Malley (MacDougall) lives in Northern England with his single mother, who is dying of terminal cancer. With no friends and constant torment at school, Connor focuses on art and helping his mother around the house during his free time.
One late night, while Connor works on an illustration of the graveyard on the hill behind his house, the yew tree forms into a monster who seeks to help Connor. The monster vows to tell Connor three true stories, from which he will learn valuable life lessons and ultimately face the reality of his mother’s illness.
In return, Connor must tell the monster what he dreads most: a fourth story; the truth behind Connor’s recurring nightmare, the truth he hides from himself.
The critically acclaimed novel, from which the movie is based upon, is a masterpiece itself, full of breathtakingly ominous art and an emotional narrative inside the mind of a 12-year-old boy. However, the movie takes the story a couple levels up, translating all of the important elements while adding new themes that further develop the connection between characters and expand the plot.
One of the added themes is the legacy a parent leaves behind for a child, which is developed through both Connor and his mother’s love for art. Though the recurring themes of art were missing in the original novel; Bayona uses it to enrich the story by adding color.
Two of the three tales the monster tells Connor are figuratively and literally works of art. The first tale, dealing with the prince and the witch, is entirely shown as if the world was made of watercolor paintings. The second tale, with the apothecary and the priest, is also shown through art, and is reminiscent of the beautiful stories in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One.”
The theme of art and the legacy Connor’s mother leaves behind strengthens the somber, melancholy tone of the movie and makes a vivid masterpiece that will stick with you forever.
Bayona uses Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) artistically throughout the movie, especially during the first two tales, to develop both emotion and depth to the story. The movie has some sort of aesthetic to it, shown through the stylistic montages of Connor drawing and the beautiful cinematography Bayona creates.
The music and the use of sound in the film is one of its best features. Fernando Velazquez plays with silence and uses it as a weapon to trigger the audience’s emotions, especially in one particular scene during the climax as Connor experiences the fourth tale and “nightmare” for the last time.
— A Monster Calls (@amonstercalls) January 6, 2017
However, the performances of MacDougall and Jones make the movie a masterpiece and call for Academy Award nominations. MacDougall, in order to prepare for his role, had to do nothing. Three years prior to being cast, his mother passed away from a similar illness, so it was easy for him to relate to Connor and show true emotions that he previously experienced.
Though this is only his second film, MacDougall has more acting skills than some well known and award winning actors. MacDougall’s performance was sensational, especially in the emotionally heavy last 30 minutes of the movie.
Though it was difficult, Jones portrays Connor’s dying mother beautifully and is the source of the emotion in the movie. She serves as the one constant in the story. As everything changes between fantasy and reality, truth and lies, she always stays the same and serves as the arc of the movie.
“I wish I had a hundred years,” Connor’s mom tells him late in the film. “A hundred years I could give to you.”
Jones is raw and incomparable, showing different, more impactful skills than in “Rogue One.” As Academy Awards season approaches, the least she deserves is a nomination for best supporting actress, if not the award itself, for her role as Connor’s mother.
“A Monster Calls,” which was released on January 6, will easily be one of the best films of 2017. Personally, it ravaged its way into my top three favorite movies. It’s a story about the power of love, the strength of family and the courage that lives within us. As Connor learns about the truth of life through his experiences and the monster’s tales, the audience is brought along for the emotional rollercoaster ride.
Without a doubt, “A Monster Calls” is a tear-jerking, unforgettable, compelling masterpiece that will stun all audiences with its visual effects, storytelling and breathtaking performances.