‘Monster’ delivers heartbreak and creativity


Photo Courtesy of Focus Features

The reality of dealing with death before becoming an adult is never an easy story to tell, but it has been done successfully in the past with films including “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

Not only does “A Monster Calls” follow suit with this subject, but it surpasses these past films in its creativity and its vibrant storytelling, delivering a truly heartbreaking and powerful tale of grief, maturity and growth.

13-year-old Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) meets a large yew tree monster (Liam Neeson) who tells him three tales with very important messages relating to his struggles with bullies and his mother (Felicity Jones), who is dying from a terminal illness.

While the story has certainly been told before, it’s never been done so with such emotion and creativity as with “Monster.” O’Malley’s imagination leaps from scene to scene in his artwork alone, but the film’s visual brilliance soars with each tale The Monster tells.

In telling young Conor each story, The Monster covers the boy’s eyes with branches, instructing him to use his imagination to envision the world around him before sharing with him the tales.

Each tale is told with an animation style blending hand drawings and computer-generated imagery that is so well executed and colorfully designed, it captures audience’s sense of imagination and adventure.

In addition to the imaginative storytelling, the performances in the film elevate its emotional punch, especially the young MacDougall in his second career acting role and first starring role.

MacDougall shows an incredible strength and fire in his performance at such a young age (14), and helps audiences connect to Conor and sympathize with him from the opening frame to the tearjerking final moments.

Jones, who has been making an impact on the film world with her recent roles in “The Theory of Everything” and her upcoming role in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” continues to show her strength as the ailing, but everlasting mother.

Overall, “A Monster Calls” delivers one of the most vibrant, colorful, imaginative and heartbreaking journeys of a young boy’s experience with grief in a long time.

“A Monster Calls” hits theaters on Friday, Dec. 23.