A MONSTER CALLS
Direction: JA Bayona
Actors: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Spanish filmmaker JA Bayona’s third feature, following The Orphanage (2007) and The Impossible (2012), is an affecting fable about loss, grief and the transformation of a troubled child into a responsible young adult.
Blending live-action, an ominous CG creature and distinctive animation, A Monster Calls draws us into the tale of a preteen (Scottish newcomer Lewis MacDougall, heartbreaking) coming to terms with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness.
The anguished schoolboy is also constantly bullied by his classmates and has to contend with the possibility of living henceforth with his intimidating maternal grandmother (old-timer Sigourney Weaver, in an underwritten role). Also wasted is fellow veteran, Geraldine Chaplin, in a cameo as the school’s headmistress.
Consumed by grief over the imminent death of his parent, the youngster is confronted — and eventually comforted — by a gigantic yew tree that comes to life at precisely 12.07 am every day.
In the film’s most wondrous segments, the stories narrated by the towering tree-man (voiced with booming authority by Liam Neeson) are animated in impressionistic water-colour hues.
On the downside, there are a couple of overly symbolic nightmares about the son attempting to save his mother from plunging into an abyss. Without resorting to undue tear-jerking, the finale packs quite a punch.
Confident of his ability to spark the viewer’s imagination, Hollywood honchos have asked him to helm the as-yet-untitled Jurassic World sequel, slated for release in 2018.
Watch the trailer for A Monster Calls here