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A Monster Calls Movie Review

It’s time for another movie review presented by our good friends over at FatCats Gilbert on the southwest corner of Greenfield and Baseline! FatCats Gilbert is the best place to see all of the biggest blockbusters in the most comfortable chairs in the valley! There is no theater experience like the FatCats Gilbert experience. I brought my family here a couple of weeks ago to see Moana, my favorite animated movie of the year, and they told me that they will never go anywhere else to see movies!

I’m just about running out of Oscar movies to review, but another one I am so excited to talk about is A Monster Calls. I heard a lot of Oscar buzz a few months ago, but since then, I haven’t heard much about A Monster Calls. The buzz kind of died down, and I almost forgot about it. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t believe I even watched the trailer going into the film. I did love the cast, and Felicity Jones is a contender for an actor or actress with the best year, so I was really hoping this movie would hit for me. I also thought Liam Neeson would make a perfect voice actor, especially if he was playing a monster, so I was intrigued by that as well. I finally had the chance to see A Monster Calls, so let’s talk about it!

A Monster Calls is directed by J.A. Bayona and stars Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, and Toby Kebbell. Conor, played by MacDougall, is growing up faster than anyone expected him to. His mother is suffering from an illness that is making her weaker and weaker every day, his father has moved to America with a new family, and his grandmother is his new primary caretaker despite the fact that he can handle most everyday tasks by himself. None of this is easy for Conor, but he finds a friend in a monster created by his mind that helps him work his way through difficulty and change.

Let’s not waste any time. A Monster Calls is an absolutely fantastic movie, and right now, it’s comfortably sitting in my top five of the year. I can’t stop thinking about how hard this movie hit me and how aware it is of adult topics in a world created by children. It’s one of the few times I’ve been unable to speak following a film. First of all, this movie is incredibly well-written and directed. J.A. Bayona uses the camera in such an interesting way, especially with the scenes with the monster. It’s actually breathtaking seeing the visuals in action combined with the way this story is told. This is one of the most creative movies I’ve seen all year, and it feels like I opened a storybook right onto the screen. With the colors, creativity, and emotional tug this movie has, I felt like a kid again seeing the magic of this movie at work. Next, the performances are amazing. I love seeing great performances from kids because it’s so easy to let a bad performance by kids take you out of a film. I didn’t have any problems with that in this movie because Lewis MacDougall is honestly worthy of an Oscar nomination. Will he get one? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he does. He perfectly captures what it’s like to grow up and gives so much humanity to this character of Conor. Conor has so much going on in his life, and Lewis MacDougall gives us the best sense of what a young boy faces. There is a perfect line at the beginning of the movie saying that the story begins as many do, with a boy too old to be a child but too young to be a man. That illustrates everything that follows so beautifully, and Lewis MacDougall nails what it’s like to be caught in the middle of yourself and caught in the middle of life. I also loved all of the metaphors this movie shows us to both literally and figuratively send its message. A Monster Calls covers so many different mature topics of life including love, mortality, death, fear, change, time, and many more. It tells us so much about the values of life and what is really important. Sometimes the best thing is to just be honest with yourself, and there are moments in life where it’s okay to be selfish while there are moments in life where it’s okay to not be selfish. It perfectly lands right on the line and shows us why in life it’s not always about “or.” Sometimes, it’s about “and” or “with.” You have to take the good “with” the bad. Things are not always black “or” white. You have to find that grey area in life to be able to appreciate the little and the big things, and this movie touched me on a whole new emotional level. Also, as far as the literal story goes, the relationships between all of the characters are so fleshed out, and as a relatively young man who is extremely close to my mother, the relationship between Conor and his mother worked so well for me, and from an emotional standpoint, this movie moved me as much as any movie I’ve seen this decade. I loved how everything is told from the perspective of Conor from the dialogue to the way we see certain characters to even the way this movie is shot. We get many POV shots from Conor, and we learn along with him and see the world the way he views it.

Negatives, for me, were really hard to come by in A Monster Calls. I feel like I say that pretty often, but I couldn’t find much I didn’t like about this movie. Nevertheless, there has only been one movie this year that I’ve had zero problems with, and that’s La La Land, so I do have some things to talk about in this section. First of all, there are some issues I had with the editing of the film. It’s not a glaring issue, but there are cuts that delete time and space, and I feel like it made the story jump awkwardly, even if it just meant for a few seconds. It happened a couple of different times, so it could have been a stylistic touch or storytelling technique, but it’s not something that I found necessary. Finally, there are points in the movie where it appears to be getting off track, but I have to give it credit because it jumps right back on, and we get back into the same exact emotionally tugging and meaningful story it was giving us previously.

Overall, A Monster Calls became one of my favorite movies of the year, and it should settle nicely into one of the highest spots on my top twenty list. It gave me what I needed in terms of an emotionally compelling story with relationships I connected to and bought into while also exploring so many of life’s biggest themes including growing up, life, death, time, space, imagination, family, and values. That doesn’t even include everything this movie brings up and faces head on. It perfectly captures what it’s like to be between a boy and a man, and it can make everyone fully understand this idea of finding the grey zone as compared to pure black and white. I do think that this movie is going to be a lot to take in for kids, so don’t let the trailer or marketing let you believe it’s a movie for kids. It faces mature themes, and makes it looks easy to emotionally connect them with them. On another note, it hit me on a personal level as a person and as a son, and A Monster Calls isn’t a movie I’m going to forget anytime soon. With a PG-13 rating, A Monster Calls is one of the most mature movies released this year, and it works for the best. I’m going to give A Monster Calls a 9.5/10.

Will you be seeing A Monster Calls? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! In case you couldn’t tell, this is one I’m going to highly suggest seeing. It’s a tear-jerker, and it’s something that hits emotionally because of the gravity of the themes, but it’s worth checking out! What are you looking forward to in 2017? Be sure to comment and tell me! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

All images courtesy of Focus Features

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Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at movies@pulseradio.fm