Skip to main content

The City Journals

Dan's Review: "A Monster Calls" a beautiful message of hope

Jan 06, 2017 02:42AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Lewis MacDougall in A Monster Calls - © 2016 – Focus Features

A Monster Calls (Focus Features)

Rated PG-13 for thematic content and some scary images.

Starring Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson (voice), James Melville, Geraldine Chaplin.

Written by Patrick Ness, based on the novel A Monster Calls (conceived by Siobhan Dowd).

Directed by J. A. Bayona.



Dealing with loss is tough on anyone, and especially troubling for kids who lose a parent. Kids may be resilient, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to feel secure about their future. Such issues are at the forefront in A Monster Calls, J.A. Bayona’s film adaptation of Patrick Ness’ award-winning novel.

Lewis MacDougall plays Conor, a young British lad trying to make sense of his life, knowing his mother (Felicity Jones) has a deadly form of cancer. Complicating matters is his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), a somewhat cold woman with whom he is often forced to stay with whenever his mom’s health gets worse. Even more complicated is Conor’s father (Toby Kebbell), who lives in the U.S. with his new wife and baby daughter. While trying to make sense of his situation, Conor develops a relationship with an imaginary tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who visits him every night at 12:07 a.m. and tells him fables that have relevance to the boy’s situation. The stories blur the lines between Conor’s imagination and reality, often landing the boy in trouble with his grandma and at school, where a bully (James Melville) constantly taunts him. As his mother’s condition worsens, the monster tries to help Conor see that he still has something to live for, and that his mother will live on through him regardless of the outcome.

A Monster Calls is one of the best films of 2016 (it had a limited release in December). It is a thoughtful and beautiful message of hope in the face of extreme diversity, told through a great performance from newcomer Lewis MacDougall, and incredible computer effects that make the monster seem very real, coupled with Neeson’s distinctive, baritone voice.

The visual storytelling driven by deep, metaphoric parables told by the monster are enough to make even the hardest hearted folks grab a tissue. It may be hard to watch if you’ve suffered a loss in your life recently, but in the end, A Monster Calls is definitely worth seeing.

A Monster Calls Trailer