‘It begins like so many stories. With a boy, too old to be a kid. Too young to be a man. And a nightmare.’
On BBC iPlayer until Monday 4th May, A Monster Calls is a beautiful adaption of Patrick Ness’s 2011 book. Directed by J.A Bayona (Best known for Spanish horror The Orphanage, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Lego Batman) A Monster Calls is one of those rare examples of a grown-up story of loss, told through a fairy-tale that packs a potent emotional punch.
13 year-old Connor O’Malley wakes once more from the recurring nightmare that has been haunting him for months. At 12.07 a voice calls to him from outside. Connor walks to the window and is greeted by a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) that appears to be a tree in human form. The monster doesn’t scare Connor as reality as of late has become scary enough, his mother (Jones) is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and his detached grandmother (Weaver) just won’t leave him alone. The monster promises Connor that he will return each night and tell Connor three stories. In return, on the fourth night, Connor must tell the Monster his ‘truth’ – something which Connor cannot even bring to think about.
In many ways A Monster Calls feels like a companion piece to Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ as both films use magical realism to explore raw emotion. Both films follow a young protagonist on the cusp of adolescence as they are going through the very worst experience of their lives – experiences we pray will never happen to us or those we love. What really drives both of these films is the strength of the performances of the young leading roles. MacDougall is utterly brilliant as Connor, truly believable in his articulation of Connor’s inner turmoil and conflict. His performance balances light and shade perfectly to reveal the true depth of the prolonged grief Connor is experiencing, his inner rage is at once sensitive, brutal and heartbreakingly sincere. A total must-see.