“A Monster Calls” is a must-see, visually spectacular, and stunningly emotional movie

A Monster Calls is a movie that will make you cry. I cry easily. I cry when I hear songs sung with a lot of emotion; I tear up when I see other people cry…and don’t get me started on emotional foreign commercials. But when I saw an advanced press screening for A Monster Calls, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and it broke my friend (and contributor to Westside Mommy) Claudia (who said she does not cry easily).

When I saw the trailer for the movie, I learned the premise of the movie – a coming of age movie of a boy who is forced to live with his grandmother, because his mother is very ill, deals with internal demons and everyday life with the help of a monster in the form of a tree. However, when I saw the movie, it was the performances of the actors, the direction of the movie, and the overall execution of the film that moved me to tears.

I don’t say this often about many movies, but this is a MUST SEE! Watch it with a friend or a loved one who you can “ugly cry” with, and don’t forget to bring a big box of tissues! P.S. If you are an artist you will really appreciate this.

The perfect cast

Lewis MacDougall, who plays the son Conor, embraced the emotionally charged role. He was relatable, vulnerable, and strong. I can’t believe it’s only his second credited feature film (the first one was Pan). I’m happy to see he’s cast in two more movies, coming out soon. He is an extremely talented dramatic actor!

Felicity Jones plays the Mom, or “Mum,” as she is referred to. She is a devoted single mother to Conor, who had him at a young age. We see her strength and bond with her son in flashbacks and while she is sick. Felicity effectively portrays and embodies a mother’s love for her child. We have the pleasure of seeing Felicity grace the big screen in two movies this winter, as she also stars in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Sigourney Weaver plays the maternal grandmother of Conor. She is the woman we don’t understand when we are kids, but realize we are when we are mothers. She seamlessly and consistently an amazing actress who carries out this role perfectly.

Liam Neeson is The Monster, in the form of a tree, in A Monster Calls. He appears to Conor in his dreams. His tender, yet forceful way of helping Conor help himself is done in a beautiful and not scary way. His powerful voice captures the conscious we all have within us but oftentimes push away.

Beautiful direction and amazing production team

J.A. Bayona is a director from Spain, known for the movies The Impossible and The OrphanageHe is well respected by the cast and the filmmaking community. Everything about the movie was beautifully executed.

We didn’t want to make a melodrama

“We didn’t want to make a melodrama,” states Bayona. “Everything had to be integrated: Conor’s diverging relationships with his mother and his grandmother, and the fantastical element of the story.” Bayona feels that “the book speaks about death in a direct and darker way.”

The creative team on A Monster Calls also includes production designer Eugenio Caballero, an Academy Award winner for Pan’s Labyrinth who previously collaborated with Bayona on The Impossible; and costume designer Steven Noble, who previously collaborated with actress Felicity Jones on her Oscar-nominated performance in The Theory of Everything. Bayona marvels, “I had the finest resources in the form of these collaborators.”

A Monster Calls

In theaters Dec. 23, 2016 (select cities); Jan. 6, 2017 (nationwide)

Story: A visually spectacular and unabashedly emotional drama from director J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”). 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones) is ill. He has little in common with his imperious grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). His father (Toby Kebbell) has resettled thousands of miles away. But Conor finds a most unlikely ally when the Monster (portrayed by Liam Neeson in performance-capture and voiceover) appears at his bedroom window one night. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth that powerfully fuses imagination and reality.

Director: J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible,” “The Orphanage”)

Writer: Patrick Ness, based on upon the novel written by Patrick Ness from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, and Liam Neeson

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Official Website: focusfeatures.com/amonstercalls

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Disclaimer: I did not receive financial compensation for this post. I was invited as a member of the media to preview the movie to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. Images and story summary provided by Focus Features