Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Monster Calls is a stunning, heartbreaking tale

Movie Title:  A Monster Calls

Grade:   A-

Rating:  PG-13, 108 minutes

In a Nutshell:  This beautiful coming-of-age story is a painfully heartbreaking film about letting go of a loved one who is dying.  

My sister’s husband died young from cancer, leaving two children about the same age as the boy in this story.  My tears flowed for their story, as well as the one on the Big Screen.  Take tissues.

Based on the award-winning book by Patrick Ness, the movie deals with aching subjects like grief, bullying, fear, healing, and death.    

With an old, wise tree at the center of the story, this visually stunning film has both gritty bark and emotionally powerful sap.  “How does this story begin? It begins like all stories…with a kid too old to be a boy and too young to be a man…and a nightmare.” – The Monster

Uplifting theme: 
  • Life, death, cancer, fear, courage, truth, the monster in all of us
  • “Life is always in the eyes.” – Mum (Felicity Jones)
  • “You waste the precious time that is given you.” – The Monster (Liam Neeson)
  • “It is not important only what you think.  It is important what you do.” – The Monster

Things I liked:
  • Felicity Jones has been knocking out movies non-stop the past couple of years.  She always does a great job.
  • Lewis MacDougall gives a very strong performance and has a bright future.  He began his acting career in Edinburgh, taking classes on Saturday mornings for fun.  He quickly landed a role in Hugh Jackman’s Pan and has been walking the red carpet with Hollywood greats ever since.
  • Who doesn’t love Liam Neeson?  He has a particular set of skills that allow him to voice the monster with the perfect combination of scary gruffness and kind warmth. Did you notice the picture of Liam Neeson on the wall as the grandfather of the little boy at the end of the movie?  Sweet.
  • Spanish director J.A. Bayona does an excellent job weaving the illustrations from the book with the screenplay. The fantasy nature of the movie features watercolor animations to create a dream-like state when the Monster tells Conor stories, and adds a blend of pencil drawings to illustrate the boy’s thoughts.  There is a fantastic blurring between reality and fantasy.
  • A lot of critics are comparing the tactile metaphors in this movie to the brilliant film Pan's Labyrinth.  The film is insightful and brutally honest.

Things I didn’t like:
  • I like Sigourney Weaver.  I really do, but her British accent was HORRIBLE.  Why did she get cast in this movie?  It was so bad that I was annoyed and distracted every time she was in a scene.
  • This isn’t a movie you’ll want to watch many times.  It’s emotionally exhausting and painfully sad.

Interesting lines:
  • “Many things that are true feel like a cheat.” – The Monster (Liam Neeson)
  • “There is not always a good guy, nor is there always a bad one.” – The Monster
  • “If no one sees you, are you really there?” – The Monster
  • “You were only wishing for an end of your pain.  It’s the most human wish there is.” – The Monster
  • “What is a dream, Conor O'Malley, and who is it to say all others are not the dreams?” – The Monster
  • “People don’t like what they don’t understand.” – Mum
  • “You will tell me your nightmare.  That will be your truth.” – The Monster

Funny lines:
  • “Whoa!” – Conor       “Whoa indeed.” – The Monster

Tips for parents:   

  • While the movie features a young boy, this isn’t really a children’s “feel good” story.  I think it would be therapeutic to watch, however, for children going through a similar difficult situation so they don’t feel so alone.
  • The tree monster is rather scary looking, yet he is also kind.  If you loved Guardians Of The Galaxy (I did!), I guess you could say he is a really intense I AM GROOT on steroids.
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