They say that we are more emotionally vulnerable on a plane - maybe it's the high altitude, maybe it's the odd moment of transience we are in between leaving our real lives and arriving at our holiday selves. More likely it is the three gin and tonics you’ve had and the fact that after a stressful getting-to-the-airport you now you can finally relax. Either way, the amount of movies you can end up crying to is greatly increased. A word of advice: don’t watch ‘A Monster Calls’ on a plane like I did. You will have flight attendants ask you if everything is okay and have to compose yourself for slightly too long a time in the bathroom as you try and comprehend your emotional devastation.
Connor O’Malley is awoken in the middle of the night by a giant tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson). This monster promises to tell Connor three true stories, and after these stories are told Connor must in return tell him one true story in return. These stories are all told in such a way as to make Connor understand the inevitable death of his mother whose cancer is now beyond treating.
SWITCH: 'A MONSTER CALLS' TRAILER
If you don’t have tears in your eyes already, you must be some sort of heartless monster.
The subject matter is so intense that it is almost shocking this is a children's film. Here I was thinking it would be about a boy who befriends a monster and they go on a whimsical journey. But no. Understandably I had the wind (and tears) knocked out of me. A similar situation to the film's plot happened with one of my good friends, and the moment I got off the plane I immediately texted him telling him to never see ‘A Monster Calls’ - it would hit far too close to home. If it managed to leave me as a blubbering mess, imagine the state someone who had lived through such an event would trigger.
The stories themselves are told - and animated - in the most beautiful of ways. With animation similar to the story of the three brothers in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1', they deliver Connor the courage and understanding to face what he must. I say Connor here, but really I mean all of us - you’re gonna need all the strength you can muster to make it through this. The strength of a monster, one might say.
I can’t stress enough how wonderful and important this movie is.
It is so beautifully and delicately constructed that there is no way of feeling cynical when you inevitably do start crying. Often we get far to obviously manipulated into these events by filmmakers and screenwriters, but there is something so organic and honest about the direction and screenplay that it’s almost unnoticeable. It's also probably because Patrick Ness, who wrote the novel the film is based on, also wrote the screenplay. This kind of heavy involvement has only lead to a far more cohesive and honest story.
I can’t stress enough how wonderful and important this movie is. I know it deals with some heavy issues, but children can handle it. Adults might not be able to, but I’m sure kids could. The cast is so wonderful as well - Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson add some real gravity. But the real star is Lewis MacDougall; he plays Connor with such truth that it is a wonder he hasn’t received more accolades for his performance.
‘A Monster Calls’ is an important film, giving children a point of reference to deal with grief, making and making adults cry uncontrollably. Although it was released in the U.S. at the end of last year, it is finally out in Australia on the 27th of July, and you should all go see this beautiful film. Do yourselves a favour though and lay off the gin before you go!