Losing a loved one is always a painful event, but losing a mother or father is a landmark milestone. In adulthood, often with pain, one is forced to view, project, and redefine his whole life. Like American writer Paul Auster did in his book The Rise of Solitude. But if the “sad day” happens in adolescence, the period of personality formation and breakdown most, what will happen? The land of the dark fairy tales of Spain portrays this adult nightmare in a true, deep and moving way with A Monster Calls (2016).
Conor O’Mailey (Lewis MacDougall) is a lonely high school student. You are going through hard times. At home, he lives with his mother (Felicity Jones) with cancer, and is on his way to the end. His father divorced his wife and got married in America. At school, Conor is the subject of bullying among his classmates. Every night, at 12.77, he was also tormented by a nightmare that was repeated: the scene of a pit devouring the church where his mother was standing. Conor always tries to grab hold of her mother’s hand, and always fails.
That dream may be the subconscious of Conor’s fear of loss. But there is another dream or fantasy, more weird, overlap. A monster (Liam Neeson voiced) forms from the tree in front of the house, always appear when Conor let go. It says that he will tell you three stories each visit. When it’s over, Conor will have to tell him the fourth story, which he keeps hidden.
Like Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, 10 years ago, A Monster Calls created a third reality that combines reality and fantasy. And like Pan, it’s very dark. Three stories from monsters do not follow the usual pattern. In turn, it tells of a prince killing a lover for the sake of robbing a stepmother, a missionary lacking in unhappiness, and an invisible self who injures herself by being seen. There is no good or bad person, no punishment or reward, no good or bad boundaries. That is the true face of life that Conor is facing.
For those who love the coming-of-age category, it is not difficult to explain A Monster Calls. Each story is a metaphor for events that take place with Conor, each character is an incarnation of the negative emotions contained within him. They contain facts, or lessons, that Conor finds in his misfortune. That world is a journey of thought, where Conor learned to undergo and explain the great loss of his early life.
All these are not new messages, especially in the adult category which has already overcrowded outstanding works. But A Monster Calls knows how to distance itself from the crowd. The script was written by Patrick Ness, author of the book of the same name, pen holder, to be tightly tightly and psychologically insightful enough. What does a child have to watch for his mother’s death? All of Conor’s deep complexities such as Conor’s anxiety, fear, anger, and cruelty are all portrayed through terrifying imaginary schools. And most of us are surprised – which is quite expensive now. Things that seem too obvious, like the relationship between the bully and the victim, are overturned. In the movie, Conor is the new guy who is trying to “be” bullied, because at least he will be seen and contacted. This detail makes your loneliness even more terrible.
The story of the monster does not tell about people. It describes invisible things but governs people. Like pain It is not the pain of the body, as the mother suffers. Which is a mental pain, more frightening, like the poison that eats away Conor and his family. When unbearable, they turned to hurt each other. It is also the belief of betrayal, denoted by church images falling into the pit. And finally, the innocence was lost, as the monster described Conor “is no longer a boy, not a man.” No innocence exists when standing before death.
Technically, A Monster Calls deserves to be called the directing achievement of Spanish director J. A. Bayona. He made the story very well, sure, maintaining the rhythm almost perfect. There is only one bad Bayon field, when the biggest secret that the monster screams at Conor’s face is longer than necessary. In addition, like fellow countryman Guillermo del Toro, he is also a sage who has impressed with the gorgeous frames in The Orphane (2007). With A Monster Calls, Bayona turns it into an artistic performance, with enough materials from computer effects, watercolors, to 3D drawings. The visual effects are excellent, used effectively, and always abstained so as not to go away from the main plot. They create a unique dream atmosphere for the film. The artwork of A Monster Calls has enough layers to compare to another quality cartoon, Song of the Sea (2014).
Definitely a compliment for the cast in the movie. The boy Lewis MacDougall, who played the supporting role in Pan (2015), proves his potential as a future internal actor. A good actor must always have a “talking” instinct with his eyes, and MacDougall owns that. Actress Felicity Jones is not appearing much, but always convinced every moment that she most needed. And there is Sigourney Weaver, too veteran to play the tough but full of interest in the film. Weaver collaborated very well with MacDougall, bringing an emotional movie scene in a car, under heavy rain.
A Monster Calls is not a children’s movie, even a child. It also does not feature children’s movies for adults. This is a movie for those who have experienced the moment of losing loved ones, and realize the truth about life: That there will be no fairy waiting for them, no happy later. Like what the commentator Matt Zoller Seitz noticed 10 years after the loss of his beloved wife Jen: “My life is not a story, just a series of events that come to me.” There is no meaning. Assign to, no one to blame, no other way than accept the truth, learn something painful, to overcome and live on.