Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Monster Calls (2017)

As I've aged, I do find myself more open to being moved emotionally by movies. I remember back in the summer of 1982 watching E.T. in a crowded theater. I was 6 and everyone but me seemed to be crying during the scene of E.T. dying. I even had my aunt lean over to tell me that it was ok to cry, which I thought was weird since I didn't have anything moving me to tears, there was a fake alien on screen in a dramatic death scene. Maybe it's because I was only 6, with just 84 months of life experience. I really don't remember being emotional in a moving screening until 1994 watching Schindler's List in a sold out theater just after Christmas. That movie moved me to tears.

Fast forward to last night. Yes there have been many other films to effect me emotionally, but last night hit me hard when my kids and I watched A Monster Calls. The movie is based a popular children's fantasy novel that's become required reading for middle school aged children. I had not heard of the book, but I did see the previews which looked regrettably familiar to the recent Spielberg flop, The BFG. However, these are not the same movie and have next to no similarity to one another other than they are both based on popular books and have very large menacing looking but friendly creatures romping about. Otherwise, these are two different movies.

This story follows a young boy with his dying mother coming to terms with the inevitable reality that life goes on, even when loved ones pass away. Children often don't have the ability to cope with the understanding and emotions involved in losing a loved one, especially a parent. In this story, the troubled boy, known mostly around town for having a sick mother, is visited over several nights by a large tree which comes to life and comes to him to tell three metaphorical stories to explain aspects of life to him. The fourth story must be told by the boy to the tree, where the boy is required to share his nightmare. The boy overcomes bullying, a demanding grandmother, an absent father and losing his mother.

The boy, Conor O'Malley is played by Lewis MacDougall, who has a face for film. Felicity Jones is the mother with the terminal illness. With an inconsistent British accent is Sigourney Weaver. Liam Neeson voices and via motion capture, portrays the giant humanoid yew tree who visits Conor nightly. I brought my 10 and 11 year old children. The younger child was somewhat bored because of the slower pacing of the film but in the end, we discussed the movie and they both walked away with a strong message from it.

Lastly, getting back my mention of feeling emotional, I lost my mother unexpectedly when I was 23 and she was just 44. Any films with mom's dying get to me, this film particularly hit me because the boy's nightmare is losing his mom. My childhood nightmare was my mother dying and it eventually came true, while I was no longer a child, I still could not have been emotionally prepared for what I experienced with her sudden death. There was a very cathartic element in this movie for me, which caused me to weep during the film with large tears rolling down my cheeks. It truly is rare for me to me to experience any emotions anymore, especially as strongly as A Monster Calls caused me to feel last night.

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