Review: Big Unfriendly Giant comes calling in A Monster Calls

Young Scottish actor Lewis MacDougall stars in A Monster Calls. Picture: Focus Features

Young Scottish actor Lewis MacDougall stars in A Monster Calls. Picture: Focus Features - Credit: ©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

Adapted by Patrick Ness from his award-winning novel, its a tender coming of age story that will strike a chord with anyone who has lost a loved one.

A Monster Calls


It could be argued that a lot of modern day cinema is made up of children's films that aren't made for children; comic book tales with 12A ratings.

A Monster Calls though resembles an adult film made from a picture book. The Patrick Ness book it is based on is a words-on-paper effort with illustrations, but Bayona's visualization of it repeatedly makes you think of images that have popped up from the freshly turned leaves of a picture book.

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The monster that is calling is a giant, menacing, walking tree voiced by Liam Neeson in his best, 'In a World....' tones, (Neeson is rapidly becoming a Caucasian Morgan Freeman) who spends his days overlooking a rather Gothic looking church and graveyard.

At 12.07am it interrupts the disturbed dreams of 13-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) who is finding it impossible to cope with the fact that his mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer.

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This Big Unfriendly Giant challenges, frightens and educates him until he can come to terms with what is happening to him.

Spanish director Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible, the next Jurassic World) handles the merging of reality and fantasy deftly. He also gets very fine performances from his cast.

If we were nitpicking we might say that the walking tree is a little too generic a piece of CGI, and that it is quite difficult to accept Sigourney Weaver as a scary, forbidding English grandmother.

The idea of using a fantasy world to deal with harsh and unpalatable reality is not that original and in this case it seemed to me a little limited. The chorus of middle aged sniffles around me at the end suggested otherwise.

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