A Monster Calls

Coner, played by Lewis MacDougall, is a young boy who has a large and growing number of problems.  Chief among them is the fact that his Mum, played by Felicity Jones is battling cancer.  He’s also getting beat up regularly at school by a bully.  Then his unpleasant Grandma, played by Sigourney Weaver comes and takes over the house and the care of Mum, eventually moving him to her impeccable and sterile home when Mum goes into the hospital.

The boy reacts to all this by retreating into his head, relying on fantasies to get him through the day.  He needs help but doesn’t know how to ask for it and refuses it when it’s offered.  It comes anyway in the form of a tree monster, voiced by Liam Neeson that visits him in the middle of the night, just as the clock turns from 12:06 to 12:07.  The monster gives him a bit of psychotherapy and some insight into the complex nature of human emotions, aiding him in the maturing process, as monsters do.

It’s a pretty film, dark with muted colors and seamless special effects.  The monster tells three stories, the first two are done in animated sequences that are appropriately impressionistic.  The performances are fine with Felicity Jones’s standing out the most but the kid, Lewis MacDougall does a really good job as well.

But when it comes down to it A Monster Calls is a very manipulative film.  Just the subject matter of a young child losing his mother is going to evoke rivers of tears.  There is no subtlety or ambiguity about the theme; it’s all laid out in the monster’s speeches and in his transparent stories.  And this is ironic because the theme is that people are complicated and nuanced and are capable of being both good and bad.

As pretty as the film is there is no need to see it in a theater.  Wait for the DVD and then put it on when you need a good cry.

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