A Monster Calls

Director: (2016) BBFC cert: J. A. Bayona

This abominably heart breaking fable brings the new year roaring to life. It’s an exceptional mix of live action, awesome animation, CGI destruction and a very intimidating monster.

Lizzie is a single mother with a terminal disease, living with her quiet teenage son, Connor. They live in a modest house which backs onto a graveyard, home to a huge, ancient and knotty yew tree.

Felicity Jones shows far more range as Lizzie than she was able to in the recent humdrum Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). And fourteen year old Lewis MacDougal delivers a remarkable performance of devastating honesty which will leave you in tears.

An elegant Sigourney Weaver is tightly wound as Conor’s distraught grandmother. Even at sixty seven I’m not sure I’m ready for the kick ass star of Alien (1979) to be playing a grandmother.

Conor sees her as a wicked step mother figure and she is one of several possibilities for the monster of the title, until the real one is revealed.

After Conor experiences a series of violent incidents, the yew tree transforms into a fearsome monster, made more terrifying by Liam Neeson’s ferocious bass growl.

He’s a hard and abrasive creature who seems to have come directly from Arthurian legend. The monster tells Conor dark and morally complex fairytales full of murder and betrayal.

Beautifully and vividly animated, these fantastical elements are used to communicate emotional truths to Conor, forcing him to confront the biggest and meanest monster of all.

With warmth and charm to spare, it’s a moving and at times scarily exciting exploration of grief, guilt and love.

It’s based on the best selling children’s book by Patrick Ness and is the first great film of 2017, though perhaps a little scary for the very little ones.

Don’t wait for the monster to call on you, get to the cinema and pay him a visit.

@ChrisHunneysett

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