A Monster Calls movie review: A beautifully shot, emotional 'adult fairy tale'

Mihir Fadnavis

Jan,07 2017 14:21:21 IST


What a great way to start the new year. A Monster Calls is not only a great film but a truly wonderful outlet of emotions you’ve kept tightly locked inside you. If you’re looking for a film that makes you want to come back to the theater and watch it twice again this is it. Director JA Bayona has handily outdone his previous film The Impossible and comes pretty close to matching his masterpiece The Orphanage.

The little you know about the story the better. A young boy named Conor (Lewis MacDougall) lives in a lonely large house somewhere in faraway England. His mother (Felicity Jones) isn’t keeping too well and he dreads the prospect of living with his grandma (Sigourney Weaver) for a while till his mother gets better. School sucks as well because he’s bullied constantly. Adding to his troubles is a gigantic monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who visits him at exactly 12:07 at night.


Youtube screen grab from A Monster Calls.

The interesting thing about this film is that it adds a meaning, a wonderful metaphor to the monster. What the monster represents is best kept a secret so when you ultimately solve the mystery in the film it comes across as a magical, massively emotional experience. Like in The Orphanage director Bayona keeps a fine balance between the real and the magic realism – one often seamlessly overflowing into the other. And like in The Impossible, Bayona really squeezes the cockles of your heart in mining sentimental drama.

I can’t think of any other filmmaker out there who delves so confidentially into melodramatic territory without coming across as cheesy saccharine. The melodrama that Bayona conjures is grounded in reality, it affects you surgically instead of hammering you with itself. There’s no loud dramatic music – in fact there are long silences, long phases of darkness and these are the moments that stick with you.

There’s also no other filmmaker in mainstream Hollywood whose visuals have such a beautiful painterly effect to illustrate a plot. Every time the monster in the film calls upon Conor we’re taken on this magical journey through lovely hand paint style animation – one of the sequences meshes the real world and the animation world together into one eye popping visual that culminates into the most dramatic moment in the film. Like Spielberg and Lenny Abrahamson, Bayona is a prodigious talent when it comes to exacting terrific performances out of children. It’s really hard to believe that MacDougall was just 12 years old when he was filming considering the amazing screen presence he demonstrates.

Keep your kids at home for this one because A Monster Calls is a beautiful fairy tale for adults – it’s got a giant beating heart enveloped around a true to life conflict that every human must inevitably face. It’s cinematic catharsis for everyone who has faced a tragedy in life. It’s a very honest depiction of being placed in a situation that you are not emotionally equipped to deal with and the consequences of such a setback.

It’s going to hit you like a hammer but you’ll come out of the theater a changed person, in a good way. Just make sure you carry a large pack of handkerchiefs because the tear ducts in your eyes are going to be chaotically overflowing.

Updated Date: Sep 21, 2017 13:16 PM