Any movie that manages to blend a human story with fantastic computer-generated imagery is deserving of applause. Spanish director J.A. Bayona’s (The Impossible) latest film, A Monster Calls, accomplishes exactly that.

‘A Monster Calls’ Movie Review

The movie centers around a pre-teen British boy named Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall), who is going through a rough period in his life: he is being bullied at school, his father (Toby Kebbell) has resettled to America, his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) is stern and difficult and worst of all, his mother (Felicity Jones) is terminally ill.

However, a giant, tree-shaped Monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) — a creation of Conor’s imagination — soon begins approaching Conor’s house at the exact same time every night, serving as a friend and wise mentor. The Monster tells the youngster stories every night, ancient tales that each have a moral of some sort and that are designed to help him become stronger and more mature as he faces the hardships in his life.

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The animation of the Monster is spectacular, and Neeson’s deep, gravelly voice helps lend the character its authoritative voice. The accompanying animation of the tales the Monster recounts is also vivid and colorful. Newcomer MacDougall delivers a brilliant performance as a young boy who is riddled by a series of strong emotions all at once — fear, sadness, anger, confusion — and displays them with the innocence of a child, yet with a mix of both vulnerability and courage that is truly impressive.

Although the film frequently shifts back and forth between reality and the imaginary world Conor has created in which the monster resides, this alternation doesn’t reach the point of being overly spastic or confusing.

Weaver is equally brilliant as the controlling and imperious grandmother who ultimately proves to truly care for her grandson and tries to hep him grow up by being harsh on him.

The ending is also very genuine and bitter-sweet, and although it may feel a bit trite, it keeps you on the edge of your seat until nearly the final minute. Any viewer who was intrigued enough– as I was– to wonder whether or not the monster actually helped the young protagonist grow and learn more will surely grasp just how powerful the conclusion of the film is.

 

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