Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Director: J. A. Bayona
Writers: Patrick Ness
I saw the movie at Helsinki International Film Festival. First movie festival I’ve ever attended and it was honestly just like going to the cinema in general, except the screenings were at a stage theater called Savoy.
A 13-year old boy tries to cope with his mother’s terminal illness by escaping into a dream reality where he meets a surprisingly helpful tree monster.
I anticipated this movie for over a year and boy did it now let me down. It delivered on all of my expectations, but that is mostly because I knew what I was in for. A Monster Calls is on the surface similar to Pan’s Labyrinth and Bridge to Terabithia in a way that all of them look fantasy-driven, but they’re actually rooted in real life human drama.
This is an important film. The movie deals with mortality and impending grief in such a way that it’s almost therapeutic. It’s perfect for adults and it’s perfect for early teenagers who may have not yet have had to deal with tragedy. It tugs at your heartstrings, but it earns all the emotions it entices out of you and it doesn’t come off manipulative nor hollow. Outside of the borderline psychopath bully, all the characters feel like real people and their relatability makes the story all the more immersive.
J.A. Bayona previously directed The Impossible and The Orphanage which along with A Monster Calls have earned him the job to direct the Jurassic World sequel. With this one Bayona gets the most out of his cast, but the real area where he shines is the visual look of the movie. The locations are limited, but distinctive. He pays more attention to detail on a small scope and keeps the story focused, rather than getting sloppy and too ambitious. Most of the flair is left for the monster and it does look amazing. Might even earn the movie an oscar for best visual effects.