One of the great advantages of living in Salisbury is the availability of a well-run mainstream cinema. Friends will know that I enjoy a regular visit to the big screen. Like you I am sometimes captivated by the trailer but in the end disappointed by the film! Last night rather put off by the trailers I decided to dip into A Monster Calls.
It is a deeply searing and heart-breaking exploration of childhood, loss, grief, anger and hope told through the story of Conor O’Malley, a 12-year-old boy who tries to dealing with his mother’s terminal cancer. If this wasn’t enough throw into the pot a stern and icy grandmother, and estranged and rather dysfunctional and selfish father together with a horrendous series of attacks by Harry the local school bully Harry. Hardly surprising within this story that Conor is vulnerable, tired, anxious and angry.
Into this story One night, seven minutes after midnight, Conor encounters a tree-like Monster. The photography is spectacular and the viewer is drawn into the shape and darkness of the story. The Monster tells Conor that it has come to tell Conor three true stories, after which Conor will tell The Monster his own story, the truth behind his nightmare. The Monster continues to meet Conor, almost always at 12:07 am or pm, to tell its stories, which all involve other times The Monster was summoned. Ultimately, Conor faces the truth behind his nightmare, which is that though he does not want his mother to die, he understands that it is inevitable and something he must accept.
This is a captivating and enlarging film. It takes us into the heart of what it means to be human – and our boundedness. What does it mean for any of us to hold our fragilities and vulnerabilities. What stories help us to understand who we are ? JA Bayona, through this film, shows how a child’s fantasy can make sense of the world and our feelings about it: we create our own monsters to exorcise anger and grief. We are also shown how to engage in moral discourse.
This isn’t light entertainment but it is illuminating and heart enlarging ! Wonderfully constructed and acted.