J. A. Boyona is a monster.
Ok, he’s not but he is a really gifted director who manipulates our emotions and toys with our tear ducts. A prodigy of Guillermo Del Toro, Boyana has crafted his own style which is fantastical realism blighted by a sheer visceral undertow (although The Impossible is perhaps an exception to this rule.) With L’Orphanage being perhaps the most astute and poignant supernatural horror film of recent years, his work has reached absolute critical acclaim. One hopes he doesn’t lose this for the next Jurassic Park film but, certainly, all of his tendancies are there with A Monster Calls.
This is a delicate and beguiling film that enchants with it’s an absolutely storming film centring around child trauma and grief. Unabashed to show the darker elements of a sickened mother (Felicity Jones’ appearance is a shocking but truthful depiction of a cancer sufferer,) the film circles Connor’s own sorrow at the events and his completely anger. It’s achingly beautiful as he tries to navigate this distressing landscape and is terrified of letting the truth of his anguish out. In this respect, A Monster Calls is harrowingly honest with a soulful root to it that teaches us how complex humans really are, even our children. With the younger characters portrayed with this range of feelings, the lack of patronisation and honesty makes this a fantastic film for all ages.
He is surrounded by more adept actors such as Felicity Jones; who plays illness and hope in this engaging character, wistful entrancing you into her folly and Sigourney Weaver; an uptight grandmother unravelling emotionally with her daughter (though as great as she does it, the British accent is disconcerting.) Even Toby Kebbell manages to shake off his recent flops to master the great talent we all know he has despite a brief performance.
This realistic British family struggles are immersed into a grander scope of fantastic as Liam Neeson’s wise tree (a mixture of Groot and Aslan) visits Connor to impart knowledge to the young lad to better his circumstances. The watercolour tales splash upon the screen in glorious colour and immerse you into the world of Connor and his mother. Utilising this aesthetic for the fantasy story really builds on the childlike elements as well as the mature adult painting skill.
You’ll not leave this screening without etches of tears sticking to your face. It will unearth the deepest sobs and the utmost grief. But as always, Boyana miraculously interweaves joy and wonder into the movie with the most glorious imagery and motifs that will ring out.
A Monster Calls says that as flawed as humans are, our truth is always the most important – no matter how dark it can become. And it’s OK to feel that way.
A Monster Calls is out 6th January 2017