Nightmares. School bullies. Dying mom. Overbearing grand mom. And a dad who cares but has another family that gets preference. There’s too much baggage in schoolboy Connor’s troubled young life.
But there’s also vivid imagination and artistic creativity that let him step into a world of his own. Connor may be bullied but he’s brave too, and protective of his terminally ill mother. Watch how he tells off the scary tree monster to stay away from his mother. But the monster becomes a welcome companion who tells him stories that finally help Connor sort out all his rocky relationships. And most important of all, to face the inevitable and let go.
It’s heartrending to watch a schoolboy cope with his mother slipping away and the angst that manifests itself against everybody around, especially his grand mom. It doesn’t matter whether the monster is his own mind’s creation or planted there by his mother with whom he’s had close and cosy moments. What’s important is that the midnight encounters with the monster nudge him into spelling out the truth and facing it squarely. And the turn-around is gradual, like maturing fine wine.
Lewis MacDougall playing Connor with Liam Neeson voicing for the monster makes a cute partnership. And Sigourney Weaver who seems witchy at first graduates to becoming Connor’s emotional anchor as his grandma.
But I have a problem with the film. There’s a line at the beginning where Connor is described as too old to be a kid and too young to be a man. Now that’s the kind of issue I have. The premise may be cute but who did director Juan Antonio Bayona make the film for? Adults are too grownup to learn from monsters that spew philosophy. And kids will be too scared of the tree monster to pick up anything from him.
For a differently handled coming-of- age experience that however doesn’t cater to a clear audience, A Monster Calls gets a 2.5 star rating.