Life can be tough at times with what seems like insurmountable problems and sorrows. It’s at times like these that you need some help from your friends and family, but when you’re left with dwindling support, it’s time to dig down deep to make it through, which is exactly what the movie adaptation of Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd’s A Monster Calls has at its very core.
With some big scale special effects and a story that centres on a boy’s struggle with the realities of a difficult life, it’s a heartfelt and fantastical drama. Check out the trailer below to see some of the monstrous CGI SFX in action, along with hints at the tough situation faced by the kid and his magical monster friend.
The UK release date for A Monster Calls took place on Sunday the 1st January 2017, a little over a week later than the US release on the 23rd December 2016 and nearly four months after its Toronto Film Festival premier. In the UK, its main competition came from from the Assassin’s Creed movie, which arrived on the big screen on the same weekend.
DVD, Blu-ray and digital download:
The fantasy drama hit the shelves on DVD on the 8th May 2017 along with a release on Blu-ray on the same date. It was available to buy digitally a week earlier and the rental arrived to correspond with the launch on DVD and Blu-ray.
The plot follows Conor O’Malley as he struggles to deal with the terminal illness of his mother, who is dying of cancer. If that isn’t enough to bear, he’s also being bullied by some muppet in school, which adds even more trauma to what is already an impossible situation. It’s only with the appearance of a giant monster that Coner starts to find a way through the injustice of it all.
Based on the book of the same name, it was originally the work of Siobhan Dowd, who died of breast cancer before she could finish the book – read more about Siobhan Dowd. It was subsequently finished by Patrick Ness, who you can follow on Twitter here, with illustrations by Jim Kay, and went on to win the Carnegie Prize.
Conor is played by Lewis MacDougall, who previously starred as Nibs in Pan. The brilliant Felicity Jones (Rogue One) plays his mother Lizzie and Liam Neeson (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) voices the huge anthropomorphic yew tree of a monster. The cast also includes Sigourney Weever (Ghostbusters (2016)) as Conor’s grandmother, Toby Kebbell (Ben-Hur (2016)) as his father and Geraldine Chaplin – Charlie’s daughter – as his head teacher.
Spanish director J. A. Bayona was in charge of the big seat for the film, and the fact that he’s also been given the job for the sequel to Jurassic World should give you a good idea of what to expect in terms of special effects. Óscar Faura is the director of photography and Belén Atienza the producer. Executive producers are Patrick Ness, Jeff Skoll, Bill Pohlad, Jonathan King, Mitch Horwits, Patrick Wachsberger, Enrique López-Lavigne, Ghislain Barrois and Álvaro Augustin.
Heart-string hooked dramas always have an element of tough viewing and that’s the case with a good amount of A Monster Calls, but that can often deliver inspiring results. You can see elements of both the sorrow and redemptive nature of he film’s storyline in the trailer below, but it doesn’t quite strike the right balance between the two, with the life lessons from the Monster’s stories not quite getting the impact that they need.
Overall, it does well to live up to the standards of the book that inspired it. The special effects are very impressive and the cast deliver some strong performances with Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson all on great form. If you like serious drama with a fantastical twist then this could well be worth a watch, but we can’t see it being on all that many DVD wish lists. Read our full review of A Monster Calls on DVD for more details.