A Monster Calls Movie Review
Kidzworld reviews A Monster Calls, a fantasy/drama movie based on a novel by Patrick Ness. In times of great stress could your mind conjure up a monster and, could he help rather than harm?
By: Lynn Barker
12-year-old Conor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall), a talented young artist, is struggling to deal with his artist mom (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story star Felicity Jones) who is dying of cancer. At school he is constantly bulled by Harry (James Melville), his dad (Tony Kebbell) lives in the U.S. with a new family and his Grandma (Sigourney Weaver) is cold and uptight. If you were in his shoes, you might conjure up an imaginary “friend” too.
Constant Nightmare and a Visitor
Conor O'Malley keeps waking from the same nightmare he has been having for months. The ground opens up, swallowing much of his town and his mom falls into the pit. He grabs her hand but can’t save her. Waking, at 12:07 A.M he hears his named called. He sees a huge yew tree on the horizon but it comes alive, walks toward him and says he “called” the Monster (Liam Neeson in motion capture role). He will tell Conor three stories then Conor must face his nightmare and tell his own truth.
A Boy’s Burden
The monster continues to come to Conor at 12:07 A.M. or P.M. and starts telling his cautionary stories. Meanwhile Conor is isolated and alone since his mom is undergoing chemo and other therapies for terminal cancer. Dad is with his new family in the states and his controlling and cold grandma is no help either. At school he is constantly bullied and mom continues to get worse.
As the film progresses, the visiting Monster tells Conor three stories of the times when he was summoned before; one is about a young prince who blames his stepmother, a witch, for the death of his grandfather the king and the prince’s peasant girlfriend. Turns out the prince is the killer and the witch/Queen isn’t all that evil.. much like Conor’s grandma. The Monster was called for vengeance but ends up protecting the witch/queen. Conor learns that people aren’t always what they seem.
Another story focuses on a greedy, bad-tempered pharmacist who heals with old-world potions from plants. He wants to chop down the yew tree to harvest its medicine but he does actually heal people. A local parson doesn’t believe in ancient medicine and refuses to let him chop down the tree and won’t let him heal locals. The pharmacist calls forth the Monster who destroys the parson’s house. In real life, Conor trashes his grandma’s house where he is staying while his mom is in the hospital. Conor learns a lesson.
The last story features a man who felt invisible because no one ever saw him. Tired of this, he summoned the monster to make sure no one forgot to see him again. The monster made them see, but, there are harder things than being invisible. Conor feels invisible and powerless so he violently beats up the boy who has been bullying him.
Sharing the Nightmare
Finally Conor has to tell the Monster his nightmare and face it. He tells the tale of the town being dragged into a pit and his inability to save his mom from falling in. The Monster forces Conor to face the truth; that he really lets go of his mom’s hand and lets her fall because he can’t take the stress and horror of her disease anymore. He wants it to be over for her and him. If mom dies, will Conor and his grandma finally make peace? Did Conor’s mom also see the Monster when she was a kid? Is he more like mom than he ever knew?
A Monster Calls is not for young kids. It would be both too scary at times and too emotionally draining and sad. Teens should be able to handle Conor’s sorrow over his dying mom and the lessons he learns from the visiting Monster.
Young Lewis MacDougall is great as Conor as are Felicity Jones as sick mom and Sigourney Weaver as her bitter but loving mom, Conor’s grandma. Really impressive is the Monster itself accomplished by great and great-sounding actor Liam Neeson who performed in a motion capture suit on set. The “scary tree” design really works and the three stories are told with a cool painterly animated art that is beautiful to look at.
Lessons learned might be a little vaguely brought forth in the stories Conor is told but most teens should get that he learns to face the truth about himself, that all people have both good and bad in them and not to always judge them on a surface level. For a thoughtful fantasy film that might be a little too “dark”, we go three stars.
A Monster Calls Movie Rating:
A Monster Calls is in theaters now!
Have Your Say
Did you read the novel? Do you sometimes turn to imaginary friends or channel your problems into art or poetry? Exchange ideas below.