Film Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls follows Conor O’Malley and his journey with grief, acceptance, life, and inevitably, death. This film shows how hard it is to hang on to something that will eventually fall out of your hands. Starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, and Liam Neeson as the Monster, this adaptation is heartfelt and soulful in the simplest way. 

The first part of this film was a bit slow-paced and felt fragmented. The scenes do not flow well together and it was just like seeing the characters jump from one place to another. The pacing of the first act was definitely slow and it made the first part of the film weak. Maybe it felt this way because they tried to stretch out a relatively short novel to an entire full-length film.However, things started picking up by the first part of second act and it did save the film. The pacing was better and now, the film started to feel cohesive and a whole part instead of feeling like little fragments or slices of a bigger picture.

Although it did have a weak start, one of the greatest strength of this film is the storytelling aspect. One of the most basic lessons in storytelling is “Show not tell,” and J.A. Bayona executed that perfectly. Instead of introducing the conflict in which Lizzie (Felicity Jones) has cancer by telling Conor (Lewis MacDougall) that she has cancer, they showed it through shots of medicines, visuals of her being weak, and Conor taking care of himself.

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Lewis MacDougall shines as Conor O’Malley in J.A. Bayona’s adaptation of A Monster Calls. He held this movie together and saved it when it was close to falling apart. For a young actor to be the glue of the film, this is a huge deal for MacDougall. He was great in capturing and presenting the struggles and emotions of a young boy trying to escape grief and pain. He was able to deliver a delicate task of showing, but also hiding, Conor’s true emotions and thoughts. A Monster Calls is MacDougall’s film and he carried it beautifully.

Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver also gave emotional performances and even though they only had little screentime. The dynamics between every single characters were amplified by the great performances of the actors involved in this film.

The creativity of the team behind this film was also something that was evident. The use of CGI, live-action, and animation were beautifully executed. The animation during the Monster’s stories were definitely one of the greatest strengths of this film. The colors, the way the lines move, the art in general were surreal and visually appealing. Adding the animation aspect undeniably sprinkled more magic and life to this film.

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Overall, this film will pinch your heart with its slow burn story and with its great performances. It did take a while to get the direction and pacing going but it ended in the right tone.

A story about a young man running away from the inevitable, A Monster Calls gives life to death and grief. A Monster Calls is that type of film that will make you bawl but will also pat you on the back and reassure you that everything is going to be fine.

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