A boy with a terminally ill mother encounters a story-telling tree monster.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson
Initial Review by Phil Crone
Then the odd decisions start to pile up. Conor’s grandma is introduced, a stern woman that Conner clearly does not care for. However, the movie never communicates the fears Conor harbors for her, undercutting the initial apprehension on Conor’s part. The second tale from The Monster ultimately proves to trick Conor into destroying his grandma’s living room, an act he’s never punished for. The lack of punishment is defensible, but The Monster now undermining Conor is out of his character both before and after. Conor’s father showing up, having fun, and leaving serves as nothing more than to toss another turd in the punchbowl that is Conor’s life, something I didn’t need at that point. Conor’s bully comes by once more to declare to Conor that he’ll no longer torment him, yet still opens the exchange by dumping Conor’s orange juice on his notebook. Why? Again, pointless.
The movie does manage to stick the landing, despite its own fumbling through the second act. The relationship between Conor and his mom is the strongest relationship in the movie, and Felicity Jones puts in a fine performance as the mother. Conor’s nightmare and final admission about wanting to let go but breaking down as his mother finally does pass away is a powerful sequence, but the movie doesn’t wholly earn any of the emotion it potentially elicits from the audience. I love the message in the end with the human dichotomy of logically knowing the inevitability and, in Conor’s case, relief of the death of a loved one coupled with the emotional urge to not let them go. I just wish the journey there could have been better.
It’ll take time for me to see if the positives or negatives are what I take from A Monster Calls. The movie feels a little over ambitious, bringing in more characters than needed and becoming a little ham-fisted with the delivery of its message.