A Monster Calls is not a sequel to An Inspector Calls but a magical realist film directed by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) and written by Patrick Ness, adapted from his novel. It’s the story of a young boy (Lewis MacDougall) whose mother (Felicity Jones) is dying. As he goes to live with his strict grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), he’s visited by a giant tree monster (Liam Neeson, naturally).
Like The Orphanage, this film has a strong sense of sadness and genuinely disturbing undertones. It’s told from the child’s point of view, like Let The Right One In but more affecting and less, you know, Swedish. Its feeling of darkness and subversive morality tales set it apart from other fairy tales and Oscar-season offerings. It has depth, wisdom and monstrous levels of emotion. A monster calls; an audience bawls.
Bayona blends live action, CGI and more traditional animation to create an imaginative story that’s often melodramatic but always moving. The majestically designed monster looks like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, but his role is closer to that of the Iron Giant. And like the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel), the monster is played by an action star; a sonorous vocal performance from Liam Neeson.
The rest of the cast is fantastic, including an almost unrecognisable Felicity Jones (last seen fighting Stormtroopers in Rogue One), Sigourney Weaver (so good it doesn’t even matter that she can’t do an English accent) and Toby Kebbell (last not seen in the Ben Hur remake). The young Lewis MacDougall stands out, resembling Felicity Jones and totally convincing in every scene of the movie.
With its stunning imagery, performances and ideas, you’d be a monster not to be touched by this picture. Don’t let the name fool you; A Monster Calls is a heartrendingly human work of cinema.