A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls Review

by E. Stevens

***** 5 Stars

‘This film is one of the best book adaptations I have ever come across. It is raw and real in the way it deals with a devastating terminal illness, and heartfelt and meaningful in how it explores the complexity of human nature.’

Director: J. A. Bayona

Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson & Toby Kebbell

Synopsis: Conor O’Malley is a young boy struggling to cope with his mother’s terminal illness and the relentless bullying he faces at school. One night, he is visited by a monster who says he will continue to visit and tell Conor three stories. In return, Conor must tell him a fourth and final story – his truth.

As someone who read the novel A Monster Calls (written by Patrick Ness) a few years ago, I was familiar with the plot of this film, and knew I would enjoy it, and it did not disappoint. Despite knowing how this film would end, I was in tears by the final scene, and I am convinced this will be true for any viewer.

Our story begins with a young boy named Conor O’Malley, who is evidently living a less than happy life. Conor’s father lives in Los Angeles with a new family, while his mother has been fighting a terminal illness for as long as he can remember. Faced with the prospect of moving in with his grandmother, who he has an exceedingly strained relationship with, Conor is eventually visited by a monster. The monster tells Conor he will return and tell him three stories, and once he has done so, Conor must tell him a fourth, his truth.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this film was the depth to the plot. Although some details throughout the story at first seem random, by the end of the film everything links together, and are in fact of immense significance. Perhaps the best example of this is the time at which the monster always meets Conor, 12:07, which takes on a whole new meaning by the end of the film.

Although Bayona made the decision to change some details from the book, such as the involvement of Conor’s father, on the whole the film was extremely similar to the original novel, which I greatly appreciated. The stories that the monster tells Conor were executed beautifully, and somehow captured the spirit of the book exactly. The first, about a witch, a prince, and a young farm girl, explores how not everyone is either good or evil, but most are, in fact, somewhere in between. The second, about an apothecary and a parson, explains the significance of a certain yew tree. And finally, the third story poses the question: if no one can see you, do you actually exist? But it is the fourth story, Conor’s truth, that is the true climax of the movie.

This film is one of the best book adaptations I have ever come across. It is raw and real in the way it deals with a devastating terminal illness, and heartfelt and meaningful in how it explores the complexity of human nature. I would highly recommend this film to anyone looking for an emotional and heart-wrenching movie experience.

A Monster Calls is currently available on BBC iPlayer and was rated 12A by the BBFC.

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