It often takes an inescapable truth to churn out a lifetime of endurance. The directorial panache of J.A. Bayona highlights this theme in the movie, A Monster Calls. Based on Patrick Ness's critically acclaimed children's fantasy novel of the same name, the movie is an exquisite portrayal of a child's tussle with truth concluding in brave acceptance. Ness's brilliant screenplay shines through and through under the magical spell of the director.
Complementing the magic is the wave of cinematographer Óscar Faura's wand - against a backdrop of darkness, the contrast of vividly captured images breathe life into scenes which otherwise would have been lacklustre.
In line with Bayona's earlier ventures like The Impossible and The Orphanage, and doing complete justice to the book's underlying message, the film glorifies the potential of sentiments in the face of scathing reality.
Lewis MacDougall, in his debut role, plays the disturbed young Conor O'Malley with laudable dexterity. Conor is caught in a quagmire of crises. His mother (Felicity Jones) is terminally ill with cancer. Emotional vulnerability predisposes him to bullying at school. With burgeoning psychological stress, the inevitable end begins manifesting itself in his dreams. His predicament increases when his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) intervenes and tries talking him into coming and staying with her, while his estranged father (Toby Kebbell) expresses his inability to let Connor accompany him to USA. Things take a wild turn when from Conor's dreams rises a yew tree-monster (voiced by Liam Neeson).
Dreams soon converge with reality as the monster begins visiting Conor either at night or in the day when the clock strikes 12:07. The monster tells him three stories with the insistence of having a fourth one from Conor. The graphics and visual effects lend fantastic finesse to the stories as they rise, merge and transform in Conor's mind. Unable to make much sense of the tales complete with lessons in truth and faith, Conor is plunged deeper into his plight. Through the storytelling, the monster ultimately compels the young boy to cast his qualms and face the truth deep-seated truth in his subconscious.
Liam Neeson's voice renders the vociferous monster (the product of amazing computer graphics) a mix of ferocity and friendliness. Sigourney Weaver, as the firm grandma, brings in her veteran charm, though a tad milder than her usual aggressive roles. Felicity Jones, at the other end of the lever, balances the otherwise intense cocktail with a more desirable flavour as the tender but unrelenting mother who slowly slips away from her son into death's trap.
Wholesomely creative and with a hint of ambiguity in the end, A Monster Calls might not possess the muscle power of Oscar finalists, but it sure has enough strength to etch a lasting impression upon its audience.