Every once in a while, a film comes along that reminds me why I love this medium. I’m listening to the soundtrack over as I write this, even though the events of the movie are still very fresh in my head. A movie shouldn’t leave one’s mind so quickly, as so many are made to, nowadays.
J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls is a poignant, artistic story about love, loss, the power of the self, and the necessity of a creative, caring spirit.
Felicity Jones strikes again; starring in the short-lived Inferno earlier in the fall, and again in winter’s bank-breaking Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One, Jones’s career is just hitting its stride. She’s a talented young woman with a wide range about her. Here, she can go from optimistic and cheery-eyed in one scene to sullen and broken in the next. It’s that kind of range that garners Oscar attention, and the kind of chops that give me hope for the future of the cinematic medium. In this latest role, she’s soft-spoken, yet not understated—she is both the object of her son’s pain and his anchor through it.
Lewis MacDougall, a relative newcomer, astounds in his role as Conor, seeking solace in the fantasy worlds he creates. When one comes calling, this Monster—to whom Liam Neeson so awesomely lends his voice talent—seeks to help Conor through his ordeal by teaching him several life lessons…though they come with their own twists. These stories are vignette-style visuals that boast artistic talent genuine to each, but able still to retain the overall tone set by the film. Conor’s mind is painting the pictures for us, walking us through his fantasies—his way of dealing with his mother’s illness—and so, there’s a sense of oneness in the way they are told. Neeson’s narration of these asides is both intense and entrancing; his gruff demeanor as the Monster is as creepy as it is calming. He has an almost grandfatherly quality about him in this role that is so pertinent in helping Conor through his grief.
Fernando Velázquez’s score of the film is complementary—neither too much nor too soft. The pieces paint each instance in which they’re, emphasizing emotion and adding gravitas.
This movie made me cry. I knew it would; when the trailer came on TV the other night, I got all choked up. I never thought it would resonate with me as much as it did.
We’ve all experienced loss, and we all deal with it in our own way—in that, I can see where Conor might sink into himself a little and disassociate himself with what’s going on in the world around him. That brings me back to one of my initial points, however, that a creative mind is a terrible thing to waste; even if one uses such solely to escape—to create other worlds in which anything is possible, where there is no evil or heartache—it’s an expression of the self, and embodies the most human of qualities: to help, even if it is only to one’s own benefit. This is what makes the end reveal so captivating and tear-jerking to me.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: *****/. Give this one a watch. Then, go home and hug your mothers…
Next review: Hidden Figures