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A Monster Calls

J. A. BayonaUSA / Spain108 minutes2016PGColourEnglish

Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones star in this adaptation of the award-winning children’s book by Patrick Ness, about a lonely young boy struggling with the imminent death of his terminally ill mother who is befriended by a friendly, shambling monster that arrives in his room nightly to tell him stories.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Patrick Ness, this darkly alluring film from director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) tells the story of a young boy doubly assailed by frightening dreams and fraught real-life circumstances.

Life has dealt Conor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) some devastating blows; his mother (Felicity Jones) has terminal cancer, his father (Toby Kebbell) is not part of his life, his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) offers no consolation, and he is bullied at school. Conor has nowhere to turn, until he receives a nighttime visit from an enormous, tree-shaped monster (Liam Neeson).

The monster declares that it will tell Conor three stories and that when it has finished recounting the tales, Conor must reciprocate with a story of his own. All of the monster's stories offer a lesson in the complexity of human nature and the consequences of our actions — while each of the monster's visits leaves destruction in its wake. When the time comes for Conor to tell his story, he must confront difficult truths that can no longer be ignored.

The monster's every appearance is a haunting spectacle — staggering visual effects grounded by the human gravity of Neeson's voice. But A Monster Calls is about much more than things that go bump in the night. The wisdom and psychological depth of Ness' narrative will resonate with anyone who remembers grappling with the mysteries of childhood. And Bayona, who proved his talent for epic spectacle in the tsunami drama The Impossible, also shows his skill in the quieter, more atmospheric moments.

Both thrilling and emotionally affecting, A Monster Calls brings fantasy and reality together for an exceptionally moving, wondrous experience.

Family FriendlyIllness + DeathFamilyUnited Kingdom + IrelandFantasy