REVIEW: A Monster Calls (2016) by Ashley Davis


Anticipation:   5/5    When I first saw the trailer for A Monster Calls, I thought, “Oh, look, it’s a Groot who can talk.” That thought quickly faded and I was immersed in the visuals, music, and narrative. I’ve been anticipating this one ever since I saw that trailer, and every time since. I know it will make me cry. Every time I watch the trailer I cry. I don’t care because the story of a little boy dealing with grief through the use of imagination speaks so much to me. I know this is based on a book, but I purposely didn’t read it beforehand because I wanted to experience all the surprises as a movie viewer first.

Final Verdict :   5/5    I am at a legitimate loss for words about this movie (except for this review, of course ;)).  It’s so rare to find a movie aimed for a younger audience that doesn’t placate or pander to it. This could have easily gone down the typical children’s movie route of constant pop culture references that will be dated in six months and songs that the will only be in the zeitgeist a brief moment. However, this movie dares to rise above the modern tropes and brings a truly heartfelt and relatable story to the silver screen.


Our story begins with twelve-year-old Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) who is struggling at school with bullies and at home with his mother’s illness. As stated in the film he’s “a boy too old to be a kid; too young to be a man.” Conor gets no respite from reality at night, as he’s haunted by dreams of his mother’s inevitable demise. His mother (Felicity Jones) is adamant that she’s getting better, but it’s clear to see this is not the case. Conor’s grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) comes to help out, telling the young man that he will have to come live with her. This is where we shift into the fantasy elements of the film. To escape the harsh reality of his world, Conor draws. One such evening, seven minutes after midnight, Conor is approached by the Monster (Liam Neeson). He’s not there to hurt the boy, but to tell him three true stories, and in return Conor must tell the Monster his truth.

This is an absolute masterpiece of cinema. Which again is surprising only because the source material is aimed at a younger audience. Every element works together to bring the fantasy to life. The sound design was brilliant. Whether it was a subtle mark of pencil on paper or the smashing of buildings and windows, every sound added to the atmosphere of the film. This is best showcased with the Monster himself. Whether he was subtly making a fist or rising up to wreak havoc, every move he makes is punctuated by a booming, creaking branch effect. The sound design made an otherwise CGI character really come to life.

Speaking of visuals, they are as equally stunning as the sound design. I can’t remember the last time a film seamlessly incorporated watercolor, 3-D animation, and CGI and did them all equally well. The use of watercolor and 3-D animation to take us from Conor’s reality to the Monster’s story is such a genius stylistic choice. Moreover, the character design on the Monster is truly impressive and feels real. He’s gentle yet menacing, and any comparisons to Groot are a bit unfair. There is nothing innocent about the Monster, he’s a wise old Yew tree who doles out lessons and doesn’t care if he makes a young boy angry.

Overall, the blend of reality and fantasy in this film is pure genius. This is a beautiful story that will wreck you emotionally with its subtle storytelling (despite one of the main characters being a giant tree monster). It’s a fantasy film but its emotional core is grounded in reality. A Monster Calls is definitely one to see as soon as you can before it leaves theaters.

A Monster Calls trailer

What are YOUR thoughts on A Monster Calls? Be sure to leave a comment in the section below! Also, be sure to check out Ashley’s BFF show on YouTube and give her a follow on Twitter.

Lee Brady of Big Picture Reviews and the #AtlanticSC Podcast also reviewed A Monster Calls. Click here for his take.

Looking for a podcast that discusses A Monster Calls? Look no further than the guys at InSession Film!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Nolan Dean says:

    Completely agree with this review. I consider this movie this generation’s answer to ET.


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