The sign of a truly great film is that it speaks beyond words; the emotional resonance hits a spot that can only be experienced. A Monster Calls is one of those movies that isn’t clever in the way it tells its story, but it’s so profoundly deep in explaining why things occur and how someone should deal with them, that it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It reaches beyond the screen to deal with a range of emotions that we have all experienced and will experience repeatedly throughout life.
At the surface level, we have a young man dealing with a dying mother, school bullies, societal expectations, and his own imagination. He calls a monster, an unnamed imaginary friend of sorts who gives him three proverbial tales that, though obvious in their trajectory, are all lessons we must learn in life, mostly in dealing with the complexity of human nature.
Liam Neeson is as excellent as ever, providing the monster with a low, grumbling voice that radiates meaning and thoughtfulness. Sigourney Weaver as a grandmother, watching her daughter, played by Felicity Jones, approach death, is spot on. The real show stealer here though is a young Lewis MacDougall, who delivers a range of raw emotions that seemingly bleed from the screen directly into your heart. His performance is riveting, pure, and believable which is impressive for someone who has no previous credits to his name outside of a minor role in Pan.
Ultimately A Monster Calls is about anger and acceptance of the frustrations in life. More importantly, it’s about honesty in dealing with those things. I won’t preach its message, but it isn’t just about the message with A Monster Calls; it’s about how that story is told. From the editing to the acting, from the script to the special effects, from the simple moments to the complex truths, this movie is an experience in human grief and frustration. The reason it resonates is not because of the complexity of its intentions, but because of the simplicities in how it unfolds.