Review: A Monster Calls

FAMILY TIES: A scene from A Monster Calls.  PICTURE CREDIT: PA Feature Film Reviews.
FAMILY TIES: A scene from A Monster Calls. PICTURE CREDIT: PA Feature Film Reviews.
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Adapted by Patrick Ness from his award-winning novel, A Monster Calls is a tender coming of age story that will strike a chord with anyone who has lost a loved one to terminal illness.

Spanish director J A Bayona’s haunting and elegiac film witnesses the devastation wrought by cancer through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy, who has yet to come to terms with the impending loss of a parent.

In the hands of another filmmaker, the teenage protagonist’s inner turmoil could provide a road map to emotional manipulation but Bayona allows our tears to well gradually, rather than bludgeon us into submission.

Lewis MacDougall is mesmerising as the film’s fulcrum, tearing at his character’s fractured heart with maturity beyond his years. Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver offer sterling support, while Bayona marshals impressive visual effects to elegantly underline each haunting dramatic note.

Reclusive schoolboy Conor O’Malley (MacDougall) is in denial about the dark shadow hanging over his mother Lizzie (Jones) and struggles to articulate his churning maelstrom of fears to his well-to-do grandmother (Weaver) and estranged father (Toby Kebbell). A Monster Calls is an unforgettable start to the new year, crafted with love, tenderness and sensitivity.