With a filmography consisting of “The Orphanage” and “The Impossible”, J.A. Bayona’s latest adventure “A Monster Calls” attempts to capture the story of a child’s journey through coping with his Mother’s illness in conjunction with the necessity to fit in at both school and at home. Although this may seem to many reading this review to be a story told by numerous filmmakers on numerous occasions resulting in overused and under-appreciated elements otherwise lacking in other stories of the time.
Over the last 5 years the story of a child’s need to both fit in and deal with the overbearing burden of their personal life has been one of the most popular factors to modern storytelling. It seems as though most Directors and Screenwriters these days want to expose that inner conflict we all had to deal with as youngsters and in turn hopefully provoke some form of emotive response. On most occasions this has fell flat on it’s lifeless face. However did “A Monster Calls” manage to buck the trend? Or can Bayona hit winning form before his step up to Jurassic World 2?
As previously mentioned, “A Monster Calls” tells the story of Conor, a 12-year/old boy struggling to deal with the harsh reality that is his Mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness. With both his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and estranged Father (Tony Kebbell) fruitlessly trying their best to realise the extent of Conor’s conflict, it is the unlikely appearance of an relentlessly wise and persistently imposing Monster (voiced and Motion captured by Liam Neeson) that provides Conor with the necessary anchor in which to steady the emotional ship he is currently aboard.
In it’s finer detail, this is story heard a number of times, and must unfortunately be judged as such. However what sets this story apart from the others is its ability to ambiguously elicit a response from any and all members of the viewing audience. The inclusion of such a tight cast highlights the effects an incident such as the one shown in this story has on everyone involved in it’s profession. Yes the story predominately focuses on Conor, however with the inclusion of the hapless Father, the conservative Grandmother and the sympathetic Mother the story is allowed to engage the audience in ways others just do not achieve.
It is a fact of life that on one god-forsaken we unfortunately lose a much loved person within our personal life. It is something we are all aware of however in no way prepared for until it is already too late. In “A Monster Calls” this experience is told not only through the eyes of the naive 12 year old Conor, but through the wisdom and guidance of the Old Tree that has helped countless people navigate some of the most treacherous waters we as people will suffer throughout our lives. I do not in any way expect this to be one of those Movies people will clamber to put on with a crate of alcoholic drinks before heading out for the night. However I do expect a movie like this to comfort and appease the broken and the weary out there that need the time to simply sit there and express themselves in whatever manner they see fit.
ROUND 1 SCORE: 8/10
Round 2 – Characters
“A Monster Calls” consists of 4 major characters: Conor, The Mom, The Grandmother and the Old Tree (the Monster) each acting as a load-bearing wall to create a truly enjoyable structure for all to see. I truly believe that without one of these corners this movie would not be as strong as it clearly is.
With Weaver’s stern but well natured performance in tandem with Jones’ broken but resolute portrayal of the increasingly ill mother it is simple as a member of the audience to empathise with the inevitable emotions Conor suffers throughout the film. This sewn together with Neeson’s commanding yet reassuring performance as the monster provides a perfect sense of reason and calm in what would otherwise be a frantic mess of pain and anguish.
There are the odd occasions in which the decisions Conor made didn’t make sense personally, and that although expecting a 12 year old to thoroughly express emotion is like trying to draw blood from a stone, it didn’t make sense for the way he went about reacting to what is going to probably be the most difficult period in that poor child’s life. However overall it was more than simple to sit back and truly allow the need for comfort to engulf you while this movie descended into its inevitable climax
ROUND 2 SCORE 7/10
Round 3 – Overall Enjoyment
By this point in the contest “A Monster Calls” had without doubt managed to strike an emotional chord with its effortless performances to its eye-openingly fantastic visual effects. However in terms of Overall Enjoyment it must be noted that this is probably one of those films that will weigh heavy on the mind for the following few days, but then will stray away from relevance once the novelty begins to wear off. This is not to say that “A Monster Calls” is a poor movie, however with the constant demand for bigger, louder and more explosive storylines, it feels as though this will sadly fall into the category of “Oh it’s on the T.V, I’ll guess we can watch that”. Not many will be climbing over swarms of bystanders in order to catch a glimpse of this revolutionary film.
It is a shame that a film as well made as this is will merely pass a very large percentage of the viewing public by. With heavy hitting adventure to thought provoking undertones, “A Monster Calls” manages to take the inevitability of losing someone we love in to something we can all use to band together in such dark and uncertain times
ROUND 3 SCORE: 7/10
FINAL SCORE: A MONSTER CALLS WINS BY DECISION 22/30
“A Monster Calls” will be one of the movies talked about for the next 2/3 months during the awards ceremony that everyone with a heart should see without question. It is unfortunate that it will only act as the previous outing of a Director moving on to bigger and bolder adventures that once had a vision of something beautiful and thought provoking.