This weekend I was able to get down to my local Cineworld to watch A Monster Calls. I’d heard good things going into the film, but I honestly couldn’t have been prepared for what followed.
In short, the film was a masterpiece.
It’s visually stunning, and everything from the CGI of the Monster himself, through to the beautiful water colour animations are a feast on the eyes.
One early shot as we first meet the Monster in particular stands out in my mind, as we see Conor stood at his bedroom window while the silhouette of the Monster gets closer and closer, on the house the street lights flickering with every step so the silhouette flashes, growing larger each time. Its innately cinematic, and its terrifying on the big screen.
It is in its characters though that the film will come alive ever more.
Lewis MacDougall is a bewitching screen presence as the young Conor O’Malley, and from the first moments you are invested in his story.
As his mother slips deeper and deeper into her illness, you see Conor slip further and further into a state of despair, and retreat deeper into the fantasy he has created for himself, the Monster on whom he can project his fears and the darkness he is feeling. Under lesser hands, this might feel twee, but MacDougall more than holds his own.
Felicity Jones also continues her hot streak as the boy’s terminally ill mother. She is at times completely unrecognisable, but you truly feel that through all the decisions she makes this is a mother deeply and madly in love with her only son, trying to protect him from the darkness as long as she can, never wanting him to see just how much she is suffering until he absolutely must.
I’m not afraid to say I spent the last 20-25 minutes of the film just openly weeping in the cinema. What started as a single tear I tried to hold back was soon floods of them, and a quick glance around the packed cinema confirmed I wasn’t alone - the film was having a deep affect on everyone around them.
When the film ended, many - myself included - sat completely still while the credits rolled. So deeply moved by what we had witnessed that we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave, taking instead a few silent moments of reflection to process everything we had just seen.
Even now, I cannot get the film out of my head, and I’m desperate to see it again. Director Juan Bayona has created a modern masterpiece with this film. I know its early in the year, but I am already as certain as I can be that this will be my Film of the Year 2017 - put simply: Its one of my favourite films ever, so to bring it down to just this year, something is going to have to go one hell of a way to beat it.