Well after reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness I was given the opportunityy to attend
the film premier which I gladly accepted. I had decent expectations for the movie as I only gave the book 3 *’s. I personally felt the movies wasn’t any better nor was it any worse.
The movie opens with Conor’s reoccurring nightmare in which his mother falls down a pit he is desperately trying to save her from. We learn pretty early on (or from the book) that Conor’s mother is dying from cancer and Conor is virtually left to fend for himself as his father isn’t in the picture and he doesn’t have the best relationship with any other family members. One thing I thought that was amazing straight away was having Liam Neeson voices the monster. He just has the most perfect voice for this role, it is a cross between menacing and caring at the same time. Along with Neeson the movie also hosts a variety of other famous faces including Felicity Jones as the mother and Sigourney Weaver (FILM GODDESS) as the grandmother.
I am going to start by saying what I liked about the movie. I felt the characters were extremely well cast despite a few minors issues like Weaver’s English accent and Lewis MacDougall’s slighty angry portrayal of Conor. I also loved the way the live action and animation were blended seamlessly in a visual stunning way. I also loved the monster’s design concept it reminds me of a larger, scarier version of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy minus the humour. Now for me it is extremely hard to put how I felt about this movie into words, I kind of felt if you wanted a movie to watch but not really focus on then this would be perfect but it is in my opinion full of holes.
In my opinion this movie had next to nothing in the way of character development. I felt we were just dropped in the middle of someone’s life and expected to just go with the flow a little. I felt Conor was far too angry a character, yes I would be angry in this situation but I would also feel sad and these emotions were not balance within Conor. He is also made out to be the victim a lot but this isn’t needed. Yes his family situation is sad with his father being on another continent and his mother dying but I don’t think they needed the various bullying/beating scenes, it a bit of overkill on the victim trope.
I ask had so many questions about the family that were not even touched upon in the book or movie, like why is parents’ marriage broke down? What is the relationship like between the grandmother and Conor’s mother? Why is the grandmother is cold towards Conor? And these are only the tip of the iceberg. While Lewis MacDougall is nothing short of astounding. He’s in nearly every scene of the movie, and the young actor is capable of reaching remarkable emotional depths, bringing Conor through anger, resignation, frustration, and indignation, while never coming off as melodramatic. He simply plays like a very young man confronted with the potential loss of the most important person in his world. It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by a rock-solid supporting cast, particularly Sigourney Weaver, who jettisons her usual charm as Conor’s by-the-book grandmother, who is as frustrated with Conor intruding into her own life as she is with her daughter’s illness.The movie was lacking majorly on emotion, while we do see a lot of how Conor feels and a little of how the grandmother feels at the end we see virtually nothing of how his mother or father feels and I felt this was sorely needed to make the story feel more believable and real.
The scene where the monster was present were the best as we learn lessons about humanity that relate closely to Conor. I also felt the monster was the best character by far and he feels the most human. The animation scene that visually portray the monsters’ stories are amazing and we learn that the way Conor visualizes is from his mother’s conditioning and her way of protecting him. As in the ending scene Conor sees his mothers’ sketchbook in which the people from the monsters’ story as her own creations. His mother also knows of the monster but calls him a friend. The majority of the movie is Conor coming to terms with his mother inevitable death and coming to terms with the guilt of letting her own. This comes full circle when we realise Conor’s reoccurring nightmare wasn’t about his mother falling down a pit but about him letting her fall despite having the ability to hold on for longer than he did.
Bayona has already proven himself as a gifted visual filmmaker, but he gets a chance to really stretch his legs with the monster’s tales. They’re stories of kings and villainous queens, and wronged apothecaries seeking vengeance, and Bayona uses Conor’s drawings as the jumping-off point to visualize them. It results in stunning, impressionistic sequences that play like an elaborate storybook come to life. A Monster Calls is a beautiful, meticulously photographed film — both in its depiction of Conor’s mundane reality or the more fantastical sequences with the creature — but the treatment of the monster’s stories deepens the sense that we’re watching a fable, one where everything has to work out. The stylistic choice echoes the desperate denial that both Conor and his mom are choosing to live in.
Overall I felt that despite the 12A age rating that pre-teens wouldn’t grasp the devastating nature of this movie and the plot would be lost on them. Most would see it as a film about overcoming bullying and being in control of your own life whereas it is actually a film about the inevitability of death and accepting it. I personally felt this film would be better suited to a much older audience which was evident during this preview as I was the youngest person present and almost everyone else was over the age of 30. I would recommend this film if you just want something different but if you are looking for a film to completely lose yourself in this isn’t the one for you unfortunately, which disappointed me as after reading the book which was marginally better I was expecting more especially with the stars in the cast and the various direction in which the movie could have been taken.