A Monster Calls review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
A Monster Calls has a misleading title (and while we’re at it, a dishonest trailer) that doesn’t do the movie any justice whatsoever. In fact, it derails and alienates its audience by marketing the film as something that is not, i.e. a holiday fun for the whole family! Well as it turns out, A Monster Calls is none of that: rather it’s a completely engrossing drama that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, toys with your feelings (in a positive and highly rewarding way), and walks you through a very dark initiation of both body and mind. Long story short, A Monster Calls is a quite the riveting film possibly not suitable for children under 10 years of age.
The film sees Lewis MacDougall in his second full-fledged feature (after the previous critically panned “Peter Pan”) as Conor – a young and talented 12-year-old boy living with his single mother referred throughout the feature as “mum” (played by Felicity Jones) in Northern England. Tragically enough, she has an aggressive form of cancer, but manages to stay positive despite her seemingly hopeless condition. In the meantime, Conor is equally plagued by her mum’s suffering after which he resorts to escapism (dreams, fantasy) in order to cope in light of the surrounding events. And if this wasn’t enough, Conor is also bullied at school as well due to his noticeably “different” demeanor.
A Monster Calls is an emotionally honest film, which works on so many different levels; its art design is extraordinary, featuring gorgeous-looking animations on par with other fantasy-driven fairytales such as Big Fish, the last two Harry Potters, The Fall, and more. The sound mixing is nothing short of brilliant, with filmmaker J.A. Bayona utilising complete pauses to increase the dramatic tension that’s presented all throughout the film (and one scene which I would not spoil in particular). The cinematography by industry veteran Oscar Faura is done with such precision as to leave the viewer with that nostalgic feeling of a chilly, wintery awe. The dream sequences are on par with everything said thus far, and only add to the bleak but hopeful atmosphere that A Monster Calls so dearly conveys. And to top it all, the visual effects (supervised by Pau Costa, notably famous for doing "The Revenant" bear) are mesmerizing and captivating all at the same time: the monster perfectly blends yet differs from the seemingly normal surroundings, and kudos to everyone involved for managing to accomplish a natural feel where other could have possibly stumbled.
Finally, A Monster Calls can be two things for the viewer: either an overly dramatic, and at moments – a highly traumatic experience that will grant you countless sleepless nights, or a cathartic masterpiece serving as an emotional valve unto which you’ll pour all of your emotions in one sitting. Either way, this film will not leave you indifferent in the slightest – a true testimony that emotions do really exist in this day and age after all.