Some of the best films ever made chronicle the sad, terrible, fixating and/or fantastical ways we deal with grief. This is not one of them.
Centred on English schoolboy Conor’s (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to come to terms with the fate of his terminally ill mother played by Felicity Jones, here heralding most of the film’s few truly emotional moments, he soon encounters a giant tree that ventures to his window to tell him stories of centuries past. Voiced by an always bankable Liam Neeson who has little more to do than recount several disparate if thoroughly engaging stories, his reprieves are the highlights of the film even if they bear a tenuous relation to the rest of the action evolving in Conor’s more familiar surroundings.
Be as they may A Monster Call’s most memorable takeaways, in no small part due to the animation doubtless inspired by innumerable shorts and The Deathly Hallows, the tales are nonetheless burdened with imports of moral elementariness better at home in the kinds of finite, swiftly-told parables from which the creators clearly drew no end of inspiration.
Replete with material better realised in the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth in which Director Guillermo Del Toro consummately used fantastical elements and other-worldly distractions to weave a deeply-felt tale of trauma and loss, here the addition of almost altogether separate story-lines involving a school bully, Conor’s father (Toby Kebbell) and Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) each dilute what could otherwise have been a compelling fiction had the due time and introspection gone into any one or more of the Monster’s legends.
On-screen all to briefly to have a lasting impact, even Weaver is afforded negligible time in plot developments rendered largely distinct from A Monster Call’s subsidiary and central strands, while Kebbell’s passing story-line does not stand alone as one that could easily have ended up on the chopping room floor of this fancifully dark, regrettably executed fable.
A Monster Calls is in cinemas now