Film adaptation of ‘A Monster Calls’ brings novel to life

By Branna Calloway

January 4, 2017

Where do you go when you’re facing a crisis and are too young to understand all your emotions? Can going within your own wild and unpredictable imagination come in handy to help you process?

In A Monster Calls, Conor O’Malley is a boy dealing with a lot at such a young age. His mother is dreadfully sick and his father is distant. Worst of all, he’s stuck with a grandmother he isn’t that keen about seeing. But, there are deeper demons at work inside Conor’s wonderfully complex psyche. And every night at seven minutes after midnight they take shape and walk about, searching for an outlet.

Patrick Ness’ fascinating screenplay is adapted from his award-winning book, which itself was based on an idea passed on from the late Carnegie Medal-winning British writer and activist Siobhan Dowd. In the film we follow along on Conor’s journey toward facing some very hard truths. Two-time Goya Award-winning director Juan Antonio Garcia Bayona does a masterful job exploring the depths of the relationship between Conor (a very good Lewis McDougall) and his mother (played by the exceptional Felicity Jones).

There is something to be said for the deep Irish brogue of Liam Neeson as he brings the titular “monster” to life, imparting colorful parables disguised as bedtime stories to his young charge. It is to the movie’s immense credit that it does a superb job in bringing book illustrator Jim Kay’s exquisite drawings to screen in eerie detail. As Conor imagines the world, the monster weaves in his tales and the action takes on the starkly beautiful watercolor of the illustrations.

a-monster-calls-trailer
Courtesy of Focus Features

A strong supporting cast is rounded out by Academy Award nominee Sigourney Weaver as the grandmother and Golden Globe nominee Geraldine Chaplin as the head teacher. A Monster Calls premiered in August at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival to great reviews and opens in theaters nationwide this weekend.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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