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A Monster Calls

Updated on January 16, 2017
Stevennix2001 profile image

Steven Escareno is an amateur film critic that writes about movies in his spare time.

Stevennix2001's Rating:

10 / 10

Pros:

  • Cinematography was great, as it gives you a great sense of scope for how massive the monster is compared to Connor.
  • Visual effects were amazing.
  • Story was well written, and I liked how it treats the concept of "death" with both dignity and respect.
  • Acting was great.
  • Direction was surprisingly well done.
  • Paced well.
  • Water painting animation scenes were great.
  • Art direction for this film was amazing.

Cons:

  • I can't really think of anything that's wrong with it per se, but I will say that if you lost a loved one before, or you have trouble dealing with the concept of death, then chances are you might not like this film. However, if you're willing to look past it's subject matter, then it's surprisingly a deep film that teaches kids about the concept of love and loss quite brilliantly.

Warning: The rest of the review will contain some minor spoilers. If you don't mind spoilers, or you've seen the film already, then please read on at your own discretion.

Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary.

Sometimes life can be unfair and cruel. A noble king that's beloved by his people can still be a murderer. An invisible man can become even lonelier once he's seen by his peers. And, a pharmacist can do something incredibly selfish and cruel, while still being justified in his selfish actions. How can all these things be true? Because humans are complex creatures. In life, it's not always black and white. People aren't always good and evil, but rather somewhere in the middle.

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we allow our petty emotions to get the best of us. And even if our emotions can bring out the worst in us, it can also bring out the best in humanity as well, when given the proper situation.

"A Monster Calls" follows the exploits of a young twelve year old boy named Connor, who's too young to be a man, but he's not quite old enough yet to be an adult. His mother is dying of some incurable disease. Although she's undergone various treatments, none of them seem to work. He lies to himself constantly, by saying she'll be alright, while ignoring his nightmares about losing her.

As he's coping with the possibility of losing his mother, he starts to receive several visits from a mysterious tree monster, who wishes to tell him three stories about life itself. Each story somehow relating to each event happening in Connor's life, at various points in the film. And upon telling him these three stories, Connor is obligated to tell the monster his story, which entails admitting his worst fear. Speaking the ultimate truth, while coming to grips with the harsh realities of life itself.

While death can be a difficult topic to portray in most films, "A Monster Calls" director, J.A. Bayona, seems to find a delicate balance with it. Handling the topic with both dignity and respect. The film portrays tragedy and sadness that one might expect, from the possibility of losing someone we love, but it also shows how humanity itself can continue to thrive in adverse situations. How one person acts, in a particular situation, does not define who they are as human being, and how things aren't always what they seem.

What I loved about this film, apart from how J.A. Bayona handled the concept of death, was the fact that it was still vague and ambiguous enough to never allow us to know if the monster was ever real, or merely a figment of Connor's imagination. Throughout most of the movie, it might seem like the monster is nothing more than an imaginary figure that Connor only sees in his sleep, or his imagination. But at the end of film, it leaves us little hints that maybe he wasn't so fake after all. However, the story never states whether he was real or not, but that was never the focus of the film itself.

The focus was kept on this monster's relationship with Connor, and how it helps him cope with his problems in life. And for the most part, it works to a great extent. Not only does the monster work as something of a symbolic representation for how Connor feels, but it manages to tell a touching children's story that teaches us how to cope with tragedy and heartache in life. Granted, the truth isn't always something we'd like to hear, but sometimes it's something we need to hear to move on in life.

If not for our loved ones, then mostly for ourselves. As a wise man once said, "The truth will set you free", as that's never been more eloquently stated than in "A Monster Calls."

© 2017 Steven Escareno

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