[Alternatives] – Movie Review – A Monster Calls (2016)

Alternatives is the tagline to discuss entertainment outside of literature. It may encompass television, movies, games, and music.

Movie Review –
A Monster Calls (2016)

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy/Magical Realism, Bullying, Death
Duration: 108 Minutes
Directed By: J. A. Bayona

Written By: Patrick Ness
Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson, Signourey Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell 

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom’s terminal illness.


Thank goodness this was a faithful adaptation.

I don’t even know when/how I found out that A Monster Calls was going to be world premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival but I had to get tickets because. Just because.

As much as I know that the mediums are different, the film is still a very faithful adaptation to the book (which remains my go-to Patrick Ness recommended novel). Monster aside, I think there was more of an inclusion of Harry (bully), Conor’s mum, and his grandmother. In the novel, there was this unspoken omniscient presence of these figures but because we cannot exactly “see” through Conor’s thoughts, they had to be in the scenes more. Which is a necessary adaptation.

The common issue I’ve found with the overall tone of the message is that–since we cannot empathize with Conor’s thoughts–its the dialogue and facial expressions that have to serve as a proxy for selling this grief laden story. And though MacDougall is here to perform (he’s really good), the whole arc of the story line seemed off to me. You may cry because the on-screen characters have released the dam but the message underneath the story can be written off as disingenuous and a bit forced (at least when compared to the book for me).

With the entire concept of the film being “I’ll tell you 3 stories, then you’ll tell your story”, I was apprehensive as to how they were going to go about evoking the nuance and imagery channeled by one’s own imagination when reading the book. But the animations and water-colours are rad as hell. Seriously well done.

Also stray thought: if you’re one to remember Ness’ quotes, a lot of them are verbatim as to what it was from the book. But that’s to be expected.


I don’t typically enjoy a lot of child actors as a lot of the time they come off to me as eye-twitching annoying. But MacDougall is stellar as Conor; near perfection to how I personally imagined him.

Liam Neeson’s voice as the Monster is just so perfect. I think people may go into this thinking “I am Groot” style of voice over but Neeson does well to make The Monster it’s own — or maybe I’m just biased. (I’m probably biased.)

With Felicity Jones and Signourey Weaver rounding out the cast, I think what you get is grounded acting; by which I mean you can’t really go wrong.


I empathized heavily but did not cry when I read this book.

I could have probably cried if I watched this alone and not surrounded by audience sniffling.


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5 thoughts on “[Alternatives] – Movie Review – A Monster Calls (2016)”

  1. YOU’RE SO HEARTLESS. Just kidding. I need to read A Monster Calls, because I love Patrick Ness. And I don’t know why I haven’t gotten to it yet, especially with the movie coming out. When is it coming out in the US? Do you know? No you don’t you Canadian.

    I’m really glad you loved the movie. I can’t wait to cry during it unlike some people XD


  2. I caught this at a sneak preview showing several weeks before the main release. I expected the movie to be pretty childish because of the character being a teenage boy who imagines a monster but it turned out to be a much more mature film. The storytelling is perfect, the acting is flawless, and the story ends up being one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever seen. I would recommend this for anyone regardless of age.


  3. “Manchester By the Tree.” A beautiful look at the inherent injustice of life, made more through a child’s eyes. Like Yates-era Potter or Burton if he still cared, the art from top-to-bottom is breathtakingly gorgeous. It’s intellectually strong, spiritually penetrating, and narratively enveloping. The only issue is that emotionally it’s not nearly as effective as it thinks, partly because you can actively feel it begging you to be sad. Still, it’s a rare brave kid’s film that deserves to be reckoned with by all ages.


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