An intimate, sensitive and realistic exploration of a subject as complex and personal as grief is an impressive feat in itself, but making it accessible to multiple generations without diminishing its relevance to any, is remarkable indeed.
As his mother’s health declines beneath the weight of her terminal cancer and tensions rise within his fractured family, Connor O’Malley is visited by a mysterious tree-monster offering three stories in exchange for a fourth; Connor’s own story, which he dreads to confront.
Blending real-life tragedy with allegorical fantasy, ‘A Monster Calls’ is a cross between ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘The BFG’.
Lewis MacDougall is tragically authentic as Connor, with Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver as his mother and grandmother following suit. The joy of the performances is their believability – ordinary people coping as best they can with real hardship – and it’s this humanity which makes the film so poignant.
Liam Neeson’s growly wisdom is ideal for the Monster, and the watercolour-style animation that accompanies his storytelling provides a vibrant counterpoint for the grey dreariness of the real-world scenes in rural Britain.
For all its fantasy trappings though, the film’s real triumph is its connection with reality. Terribly sad, but beautiful in its sadness.