Ricky's Film Reviews

Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases

A Monster Calls

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A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness.

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Cast

Lewis MacDougall – Connor O’Malley

Felicity Jones – Elizabeth

Liam Neeson – “Monster”

Sigourney Weaver – Mrs. Clayton

Toby Kebbell – Mr. O’Malley

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A Monster Cries

Well.
That monster called.
But this little (I’m 5ft 6) movie monster cried his eyes out..

A Monster Calls set me off – BIG time. By the time the end credits rolled I remember being sat with my elbow on the seat arm rest, face pushed into my hand – crying my eyes out. My temples felt as though they would explode I was that upset. Thank god I had a few paracetamol in my bag…

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This movie is constructed completely by the theme of bereavement and wastes no time in getting its message across to viewers. Its deeply poignant story is carried by lead cast member Lewis MacDougall, and the kid does very well too. There’s something about a child portraying the theme of loss or death, it makes the production slightly more sad because of his or her innocence.
A Monster Calls really drills to the core of death and how little Connor deals with having to let go of his mother. But it does so in an entertaining style, instead of morbidly. Key elements come into play here with special effects and slick animation, some dry humour, cast who make a good impact, a heartfelt script, all contributing to the smooth fluidity of the movie itself.

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I was surprised by this movie too; part of the plot is for the gigantic Monster to tell Connor three different stories, Connor to tell Monster his in return. I expected these to be lengthy, tedious tales but on the contrary each one was brief and snappy and this made room for Connor’s own story to come through and develop nicely. A Monster Calls intertwines four separate stories and then drops a bomb of emotion towards the end of the movie when the lead character’s heartbreak is acknowledged, and the viewer gets to see how he deals with it.

The dreamlike sequences throughout the movie were strangely intriguing. Nearer the beginning of the movie I wondered what the hell was going on, why a quaint little graveyard was splitting in half and being swallowed up by the ground. But I started to realise what was happening, and in fact the slow motion of the scene enhanced its symbolic message massively. And the scene where Connor clutches the hand of his mother from above as she hangs from a cliff edge is shockingly effective, especially when she starts to slip..

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It all fits into place and truly means something.
As well as the relevant symbolism portrayed in terrible scenes, the use of art blending into real life when the Monster tells Connor his stories was done well. Fortunately, this movie doesn’t bore off in to the producer thinking he’s Rolf Harris (I’m not even sure that’s a good thing anymore). They keep the animation light and simple, with Neeson’s gruff voice booming over the top of it.
He does a good job too, veering away from his same old standard character and coming across as quite endearing for once. And thank fuck that usual black leather jacket turned into crisp brown bark; Neeson bores me sometimes. He is always running around in a leather jacket shooting a gun in one hand, so his part here in A Monster Calls was refreshing to watch. The man actually brought tears to my eyes just listening to his harsh but very sad voice.

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Weaver also adds to the talented casting as moody grandmother Mrs Clayton. She and MacDougall create a brilliantly tense on-screen partnership, with a strong grandmother who is clearly breaking down inside and a young boy who doesn’t want to be around her. It makes for an atmosphere of almost dread; watching him move in with her and wanting to run away at the same time as she not really wanting to house him, but knows she has to.
You have two sad scenarios playing out here: a boy having to let go of his dying mother, and a boy feeling very isolated both at home and at school.
If you spot the poster for this movie and think, “ahh, that looks sweet” – think again. A Monster Calls is vastly different to your normal animated feature where some sort of object springs to life and befriends the nearest child. It is deeply emotional and I personaly found it quite upsetting towards its end.

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Tree Sap

So what went wrong with A Monster Calls?

Firstly, it’s a movie which contains both a theme – and a style – that I have seen before in other movies. As emotionally engaging as it is there are so many productions out there that have come before this, all bearing a similar theme and / or story. Big Fish (2003) for example; man losing his father and the entire film focuses on how their relationship is beginning to end. I did actually cry at this movie also (proper pussy I am, I love it). Pussies aside, I’ve seen it all before – the rocky relationship between child and parent and then the tension for them both when the parent starts dying.
I hate to say all this because A Monster Calls is a genuinely heartwrenching story; I do however have to offer the negative as well as positive.

See if you can notice Weaver’s slight faltering English accent. The actress plays a British grandmother, but just doesn’t quite nail the dialect. Instead, she speaks in hushed tones which seem to slip in and out of British – American.
This was a bit odd.

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You would not want to view this movie if you’re feeling a little sad, I.E. after a funeral. Because it will set you off and you will feel raw.
Near the end of A Monster Calls, the tree tells Conor he can finally let go.
I certainly let go – and lost it, crying my eyes out.
One of the most emotional of productions I have seen in years, A Monster Calls is deeply moving and quite precious. So if you’re a fan of cry-y movies, you’ll bloody love it. If you’re not (in a good or bad sense) I would steer well clear.

This movie really wasn’t as crap as I expected it to be. I was surprised by its symbolic and emotionally charged substance.
A lady sat a few seats down from me was crying.
One half of the couple behind me was squelching.
I was sobbing.
Says it all.
A real tearjerker here.

 

 

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This entry was posted on February 25, 2017 by .
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