Strange that right after reviewing a “boy meets monster” movie, I review another, even if A Monster Calls is, well, a bit more sophisticated than Monster Trucks. If Creech was a monstrous representation of your favourite childhood dog, than Liam Neeson’s monster is a monstrous representation of your least favourite childhood teacher. He may seem frightening and confusing, but that’s only because the world is frightening and confusing, and he wants you to understand it.
The world is certainly confusing and frightening for young Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall), whose mother Lizzie (Felicity Jones) is suffering from a terminal illness, who is bullied frequently at school and who fears living with his uptight grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). One night at 12:07, he gets a visit from a tree-like monster, who says he will tell Conor three stories, each containing a lesson, and then Conor must tell him a fourth.
The first two stories the monster tells are animated, and they are a reason why A Monster Calls is worth seeing on the big screen. The animation there is beautifully dark and fantastic, slightly reminiscent of Mirrormask in a sense, and moments where the Monster turns into the stories’ scenery is very cleverly done. The Monster himself is visually well-realised; though he looks like the evil twin of Treebeard, there is still indications of warmth and wisdom in his appearance.
His interactions with Conor are also well-done, with a true sense of honesty. Neeson was the perfect choice to voice this beast, for though he is destructive, he comes off just as regal and mighty as Aslan. The movie also does a fine job of portraying the confusion and anger Conor is going through, through the performance of MacDougall, Weaver and others. You can tell where the story is going, but at the same time, there were directions the film could have gone in that I was glad they didn’t take.
A Monster Calls is a well-made and touching film, and one worth seeing at the cinema too.