A Monster Calls - This Dark Childrens Fantasy Movie Rocks
Dir: J A Bayona
Starring Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, and Liam Neeson as a piece of wood
Juan Antonio Bayona has moved from creepy dead children in Orphanage, to lost dead children of the tsunami in The Impossible, to children trying not to be lost in this, his latest, darkest fairy tale. (He also lent his hand to a couple of episodes of the late and sorely lamented Penny Dreadful – but they don’t fit with our kid-tastic vein here, so we’re not gong there.)
In his new fable for the modern age, adapted from the book by Patrick Ness, Bayona is in classic territory – as a remarkable Lewis MacDougall struggles to come to terms with the imminent death of his mother Felicity Jones (think Bambi but with “cancer” standing in for “man.”) Into his very distraught world, one where school bullying is also an issue, comes the local graveyard’s yew tree – brilliantly animated, and splendidly voiced by Liam Neeson, who, as we all know is very good at threatening phonecalls, and wooden voce overs both!
What Bayona has done here is to take inner rage and make it heartfelt and honest for his audience. This is a YA adaptation in which the phrase “Young Adult” has never been more apposite. It’s a coming of age movie – not that it wouldn’t work for a child of any age. Filled with a mix of terrific animation, beautifully realised CG and a genuine love of story telling and the import and impact of that, Bayona pulls off something really special here.
Like The Iron Giant met ET (“Ill be right here” is invoked twice) and had a baby Groot. (With a touch of Terms of Endearment chucked in for good measure.) It’s wonderfully good.
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