A Monster Calls


A mix of fantasy and melodrama with Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones Discuss this article

© ITP Images

Or, Pan’s Labyrinth 2: The Oscar Years… When Spanish filmmaker J. A. Bayona’s debut The Orphanage was released back in 2007, many proclaimed him the rightful heir to Guillermo del Toro: equally creepy and inventive.

Bayona’s follow-up, the real-life disaster movie The Impossible, may have quieted those voices temporarily, but they’ll undoubtedly rise again, full-throated, with this.

Adapted by author Patrick Ness from his not-quite-kids’-book about an imaginative 13-year-old boy (Lewis MacDougall) who conjures an ent-like tree-monster (granite-voiced by Liam Neeson) to help him deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) worsening cancer, this fairy tale horror disease drama is striking but overly sentimental.

It’s also hard to know who the movie’s audience is. It’s too scary and bleak for kids and likely too whimsical and meandering for most grown-ups. But when it loosens up, it springs to life – the climax being unexpectedly powerful, with a genuinely sharp, emotionally bracing sting in the tale. The result is strange and memorable, but frustratingly over-polite. There’s a gripping, dark, truly monstrous film lurking in here somewhere, but Bayona seems bent on keeping it at bay. Or maybe he’s just saving that for his next gig, on Jurassic World 2.

The bottom line
An awkward mix of fantasy and melodrama.

By Time Out staff
Time Out Doha,

A Monster Calls

  • Duration: 108
  • Released: Tue, 06 Dec
  • Language: English
  • Director: J.A. Bayona
  • Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall

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