TIFF 2016 Review: “A Monster Calls (2016) ★★★★★


It’s important to give a second chance to a film when you feel that you were not paying enough attention or were too tired to connect with the film, the way it happened to me. The second time when I watched A Monster Calls during the Toronto International Film Festival, I was finally able to connect with the storyline in a way I could not let it go after I watched it.

A Monster Calls follows Connor, who seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with the sickness of his terminally sick mum, (Felicity Jones). However, during the interaction with the Tree Monster, Connor will learn many useful lessons, including how to handle with the nightmarish truth that magic can’t heal, and the dreams worth being dreamed, some of them are never meant to come true.

Connor’s Mum is gravely ill. Experimental medicine no longer works, and the sign of life slowly disappears in the thin air. Connor is unable to accept it and wants to hear nothing about possibilities of his mum’s death that may come much sooner. But begins it with the Tree Monster, who introduces the story of a boy who is too old to communicate, and too young to be a man.

But before the Monster makes Connor to face his most horrifying dream, he offers to tell three tales, but once he finishes, the monster insists to hear Connor’s story as well, which can’t be nothing else but truth, even though it’s the truth that he tries to avoid at any cost. The first tale monster tells revolves around the Evil Queen, who, in order to take over the throne, poisons the King.

Left one son behind, the young prince, according to the rules, cannot be responsible for the Kingdom due to his age, so, the Evil Queen becomes the ruler. However, that was only the first part of the tale, where things change significantly, where Connor had to learn that sometime there is no good guy in fairy tales, even though that good guy is Prince Charming.

Indeed, Monster teaches Connor that some people are in between of being good or bad, and no heroes exist. But how can a young mind understand something that even grown ups are hardly capable of? But in A Monster Calls the wiseness comes not with the age, but with the troubled and devastating path the boy has to go through in order to experience the truth of life.

Adapted from Patrick Ness’ novel and directed by J.A. Bayona, A Monster Calls forces the audience to experience the unpleasant reality of a boy who does not want to admit that his mother will soon die. The drama combines with fantasy, the Tree Monster (beautifully and magically voiced by Liam Neeson) takes Connor and the audience to a journey of dreams, tales where we all have to learn how to let go of someone we love.

In the end, in A Monster Calls, Connor learns that in order to make the magic work, he needs to have will and determination and learn that in real life there is no such ending as happily ever after, and that people come and go in this life whether we want it or not. And those who stay have to deal with it in any way possible to cherish the warm memories left behind. So, before you go to see the film, take the luggage with you to fill it with so many life-changing lessons you can gain from this simply beautiful, uplifting and heart-warming film.

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