For Reel

A Monster Calls (2016)
February 28, 2017, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: J.A. Bayona
2 Stars
a-monster-callsLike many other dramas marketed for children, A Monster Calls follows a young protagonist (Lewis MacDougall) who responds to emotional trauma by existing within a fantasy world—here, a neighboring tree uproots itself and teaches him about moral complexity and the joys of destruction, among other things. The need to create a narrative out of a trauma as a way of understanding it is a compelling one, however where A Monster Calls goes wrong is just how thoroughly it balks from the real difficult moments. Conor’s (MacDougall) mother’s cancer eerily plays a subplot, allowed focus now and then but largely drifting somewhere in the background. She (Felicity Jones) is a thinly written metaphor for her own son’s dealings with grief and aging—a martyr for his story. In that way, the film feels remarkably self-centered and oddly lacking in empathy. Conor is the center of his own universe, and ultimately what he comes to understand is that most everyone around him will ultimately come through and help him through his struggles. But what does he learn about connecting with others? Horrific glances at his balding, skeletal mother and blankly staring at his father’s (Toby Kebbell) confessionals would suggest precious little.

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