A Monster Calls Movie Review
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There are some that believe that authors never die because their stories live on forever both in print and in the memory of their readers. Siobhan Dowd originally had only the first chapter for A Monster Calls when she lost her battle to cancer, effectively ending the manuscript for good. That is until her publisher had the idea to have fellow author, Patrick Ness start from where Dowd left off. It is from there that we the readers received the haunting tale of a boy, a sick mum, and a monster demanding three stories.
Conor O’Malley is one of the most self sufficient 13 year old boys around. He has to be since he is dealing with much more than you’re average 13 year old. His father left for the states years before. Leaving him alone with his ailing mother (Felicity Jones), the light of his life, who is starting to dim. Her cancer is wicked like only cancer can be. Conor is alone with no friends and a stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) on her way to take care of things.
One evening as Conor is drawing, he hears what he thinks is his name repeatedly. When his clock flashes to 12:07, all of the sudden his house begins to shake and things in his room slide to one side. Approaching him from the back of his house, far off in the pasture, is a giant yew tree. The tree moves deliberately and is strong and steady. In all honesty, it’s quite terrifying. Conor holds his ground and listens as the yew tree addresses him. The tree (voiced by Liam Neeson) says he has three true stories to tell Conor, and in return he must tell him a true story. Ironically the yew tree insists that Conor has summoned him. I say ironically because the film is called A Monster Calls. The entire exchange is quite haunting and I can honestly say I would have peed my pants but it would appear as though Conor originally thought it was a dream. When Conor awakes the next day, he goes about his day- sick mom who attempts to keep a smile, bullies at school, sick mom at home, and repeat. That is until his tree friend makes his visits regular. Always at 12:07 a.m.
Each tale is intricate and is told in the style of a fable. This is a very odd take away, but the whole time the yew tree spoke, I thought “Liam Neeson has a wonderful voice for voice for an ancient and ominous old tree”. He really played the part very tell, breathing life in to each story that are meant to teach Conor that people aren’t always simply “good” and “bad”. Sometimes they are both and sometimes they are neither. Conor’s grandma can come off stern, often she is on the receiving end for his annoyance in regard to the whole health fiasco with his mom, but she is not a bad person. His father can be quite selfish- leaving his only sun and returning while his ex wife is on her death bed. Instead of making things better for Conor, he makes them worse, but he isn’t bad either.
The person Conor is meant to understand and forgive above all else, is himself. Both in the novel and in the movie, the pacing of the story and the way in which it unfolds is where the beauty lies. The stories within the stories are powerful but it is Conor’s own story that is the formidable of all. Be forewarned, tissues or some sort of absorbent material will be necessary for tears, you’ll thank me later.
It can’t be said how Ms. Dowd would have written this story, whether it would have been as successful as it is now, or eventually adapted in to a film. The writing was all Patrick Ness, but without Siobhan Dowd, the story would have never been conceived and in that way, a part of her will certainly live on forever.