“Stories are wild creatures. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
– The Yew Tree Monster, to Connor O’ Malley
I didn’t do much research before deciding to watch this movie; I believe it would simply be a movie where a monster teach a boy on how to mature, and even though it is that kind of movie, I didn’t expect that it would be such a heart-wrenching, yet realistic, story of a boy overcoming his fear and loss.
So, what is the movie all about? Let me introduce you to Connor O’ Malley; Connor is a young boy who is constantly bullied by Harry at school, and everybody there seems to treat her as an invisible boy, not paying that much attention to him at all. Back home, Connor’s mother is suffering from a terminal illness that has numerous people falling victim to it, a biological monster named cancer, under the larger monster named Death. One night, however, Connor hears a voice reaching out to him, and a massive Yew tree on the middle of a churchyard transforms into a monster (oohhh!), saying that he will tell Connor three stories, and then Connor would have tell it the fourth. Amidst the immense pressure of his mother’s condition, Connor is about to undergo an adventure of self-healing and fantasy.
“A Monster Calls” is not your typical CGI monster movie with children (which I thought it would be :P). In fact, the monster does not even have that much screen time as expected of a titular character, but still plenty enough, and in that amount, it manages to tell us that the story is more than just a random tale about princes, apothecary, and an invisible boy. It is a story about Connor himself. Connor is the spotlight of the movie, and the monster does a great job in evolving his character; the monster is the story’s instrument to make Connor grow, and that is the only thing it does, splendidly.
The characters are very narrow, involving Connor, the monster, his mother and grandmother, as well as the minor school bully. We are not presented with an overly deep story involving exciting character developments of these small amount of characters; in fact, the only one with a noticeable development is Connor himself, and that is the only purpose of this movie. Despite its narrow scope of story, “A Monster Calls” has a message that is nowhere near small-scoped, it has a message that is applicable to all of us regardless of our age, and that is how to cope in a seemingly hopeless, dreadful environment while dealing with a huge loss.
The movie is pretty straightforward and has its own format; the introduction of Connor’s problems, one story from the monster, the intensifying of Connor’s problems, one more story from the monster, another intensification, another story, then the climax and conclusion. With this neat structure, it prevents the movie from becoming a disoriented, jumbled mess, and transforms the story into one that everyone can understand and follow. The only thing that holds it down is the presence of a few unexplained development regarding his situation with Harry as well as the fact that there really needs to be thoughts about the point of the stories told by the monster (and it is open to interpretation, which is all good in the end).
Combining fantasy elements while retaining the realism and seriousness of the movie, “A Monster Calls” is an allegorical and symbolic movie that keeps the viewers from taking it lightly and dismissing it off casually, making us really believe that monsters are real, and they are living inside us in our conscious as well as subconscious, and how to deal with them is the wonderful lesson that the movie attempts to deliver successfully.
And it does just that. Plus, it makes you feel as if there were onions rooted inside your eyes.
Rating from me: 4/5