One of the most wonderful experiences a film can provide is surprising you, and A Monster Calls did exactly that to me. A Monster Calls was released in 2016 and it was something that flew right under my radar, so checking out this DVD was a true treat as the film blew me away.
A Monster Calls tells the story of a young boy, Conor, who is facing an impossible situation, dealing with the mortality of his mother as she is dying from cancer. One night he finds himself face to face with a giant monster seeming to be made of fire. The monster pulls Conor out of his house, and explains to him that he will visit on continuous nights to tell a total of three stories. The night after the third story is told, Conor will have to tell the monster his story, which becomes clear that the monster means a recurring nightmare Conor has been having.
The film is a wonderful, and dark story of a boy having to face the reality of his mother dying in a beautiful way. The monster with its bursts of anger, followed by its reason is a terrifying conduit for Conor’s grief and acceptance. The stories, when narrated by the monster, are visualised with a beautiful 2D animation that is dark and beautiful in its way. The film results in a truly powerful ending, with a slight open ending, that resonated with me well. I can’t elaborate anymore without potentially spoiling it, but the ending was a worthy ending to the journey.
The dark tones in the real world, underpin the serious matter being addressed, and this is only exemplified thanks to the monster. The monster is a giant CGI tree like beast, not unlike Ents, who when he gets angry shows a fire aesthetic that is truly freaky. Adding to the unique design of the monster is his voice acting, by Liam Neeson, which is unsurprisingly fantastic, from the softer to the aggressive moments.
The other actors in their respective roles are all amazing as well. From Lewis MacDougal playing the boy Conor, to Felicity Jones playing his dying mother, and Sigourney Weaver playing the Grandmother dealing with the whole situation. All round great performances help the film be the wonder it is.
There are some issues where it can move slowly at times, which I feel adds to the film, but it will be a touch slow for some people. The only other issue is despite its PG rating, the film is very dark, and not only with its themes. The scenes were a lot darker than I expected, which added with its slow pace, may not make for good viewing or younger audiences.
The DVD extras include deleted scenes, which didn’t provide much to the experience, and some behind the scenes featurettes. These were interesting but I wish there was more. With such a powerful film with such important themes, I would have liked to have seen more from everyone involved, but it was better than nothing.