The big Awards contenders and hopefuls for this year began trickling in towards the end of 2016. However, we're set to get plenty more as this year begins, and one of the first to arrive, kicking off 2017 with a bang, is J.A Bayona's film adaptation of Patrick Ness's hit novel A Monster Calls.

Having a tough time at school with bullies; dealing with divorced parents, and feeling abandonment from his dad (Toby Kebbell); a grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) he doesn't take to kindly too and dealing with his mother's (Felicity Jones) terminal illness, 12-year-old Connor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is going through a lot and is a very damaged, lost and confused soul as a result. Seeking refuge, away from all his troubles, amongst his art and his wild imagination, Connor finds a surprising new friend when The Monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) comes to help him deal with all of this pain by taking him on a journey of self-discovery, courage and truth.
Director J.A Bayona's previous works, which includes The Orphanage and The Impossible, were all films that tugged on the heartstrings. However, they come nowhere near A Monster Calls. This is one of the most emotionally charged, heartbreaking films I've seen in a long time - bring the tissues! Bayona directs this screenplay - penned by novel's author Ness - with such finesse; this is a masterfully crafted piece of work. The story veers from real-world into fictional story from time to time and the way Bayona does this is so seamless. The use of visuals and colour and a very unique style helps in telling this story so beautifully. Ness' script itself is incredible. Despite one of the lead characters being a CGI monster, this film always feels grounded and real. All the emotion and the characters feel real and genuine; it's almost as if we're actually watching a real boy go through this real situation. And it's gut-wrenching.

We find ourselves so invested in this story and in these characters, our lead Connor especially. Everyone has felt lost and confused and scared at one point or another in their life and it's that aspect of Connor that we all relate to; we empathise for the situation he is in and want to see him overcome it all. However, these characters just aren't in a good spot and the story keeps beating down on them and it's hard to watch because of how much we care. Ness has crafted such genuine, real and likeable characters here and such beautiful, tender and believable relationships too. And as the story continues to unfold its many layers, we find ourselves crying harder and harder until we're just outright balling at the end. And, trust me, the waterworks will be going hard. It's a testament to how beautifully written this film is, but also how superbly acted it is too. All the performances are exceptional but Felicity Jones, especially, gives such a tender, emotional turn here. Although, the standout is undoubtedly newcomer MacDougall; the young actor gives one of the best, most nuanced child performances ever - he is a revelation to watch. His performance is so believable and emotionally driven, and he very much so deserves Awards attention as much as every other actor being buzzed about.
A Monster Calls is so close to perfect. Its only shortcomings are perhaps that, when we do transition from Connor's life to the stories he is being told by The Monster (Neeson is cast so perfectly here, bringing this creature to life with such might and ferocity yet innocence and charisma too), you can't help but want to return back to the main story. I also feel that there are pacing issues every so often, with a couple of scenes dragging a little here and there, feeling quite unnecessary. This is a slow film as it is - which is of benefit to the story and the emotion - but there are some scenes which just drag a little too much perhaps. However, these are very minor complaints and they can't take away from the fact that this film is nothing short of astounding. It's beautiful yet devastating and both breathtaking but heartbreaking. I know that the year has merely begun but this is going to be one of the best films of 2017, for sure.

VERDICT:
A Monster Calls is one of the most beautiful and utterly heartbreaking films to release in some time; it's an unequivocal tear-jerker and definitely, already one of the best films you'll see in 2017.


About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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