'A Monster Calls' worth seeing as your 1st movie of 2017

Posted January 5

Liam Neeson and Lewis MacDougall in A Monster Calls (2016) (Deseret Photo)

MOVIE LAND — With the rush of the December studio movie releases behind us, we are presumably entering the long hibernation of big name movie releases between now and the summer blockbusters.

This is the time when many studios will release the films they are less confident about or the films that just can't hang with the bigger movies of the year. This time of year is affectionately referred to as the "dump months." Unfortunately, most of these movies tend to be only kindling, just enough to keep the movie theaters warm while hoping to attract viewers out into the cold during the long winter months.

Fortunately, however, not every movie released this time of year is bad— think “Groundhog Day”, “Office Space” or “Silence of the Lambs” as "dump month" success stories.

This year with the film “A Monster Calls,” we are treated to the rare gem that I believe will become a classic for those who take the time to appreciate it.

Here are the reasons “A Monster Calls” is worth your time:

A difficult story beautifully told

I went into “A Monster Calls” with some preconceived ideas of what I thought the movie was and was not going to be. My ignorance once again made a fool of me.

“A Monster Calls” is a story of a 12-year-old boy played by Lewis Macdougall as he navigates the unfair dealings of life and death while he tries to cling to a childhood he is being forced to leave. The brilliance of the storytelling is in the way the story is presented. We are introduced to difficult adult concepts through the eyes of someone who has only yet seen life as a child.

This approach works particularly well for both children who can relate to the strong visual storytelling, and adults who can relate to the subject matter, creating a space in-between for these perspectives to meet.

Touching and heartfelt

Another component of this movie I underestimated was its ability to elicit an emotional response. I’m not ashamed to admit I will let a movie choke me up if it is done well and is relatable. I have no fear walking down the emotional path a director has placed before me. In fact, I think if a movie like this has done its job right, I will walk out with a new perspective emotionally, logically or both.

“A Monster Calls” managed to do this for me, as well as most other people in the theater. Every time a silence occurred after a particularly touching scene, the distinct sniffling sound of people trying to hold back tears only to have them escape through their nose could be heard throughout the theater.

An earnest effort

A big reason I think “A Monster Calls” has the potential to be a favorite for years to come is because it tells a universal tale of life that everyone will experience on their way through childhood to adulthood and beyond.

With heartfelt performances by almost everyone in the cast, the movie feels relatable, but doesn't rely on what is current. Felicity Jones ("Rogue One") who plays the boy’s mother, Liam Neeson, who voices the monster, and Macdougall, who plays the boy, all do their best to keep the movie as believable as can be expected for a movie about a giant talking tree monster.

The weakest link is Sigourney Weaver who plays the boy's grandmother. Weaver cannot manage a British accent well enough that it isn’t distracting. She does manage to nail the emotionally distant grandmother for most of the movie until she is needed to care.


With as much as I liked this movie, it wasn't perfect — but it didn’t need to be. “A Monster Calls” manages to capture a difficult experience and make sense of it. It teaches us life is messy and unfair, but we grow through these experiences while defining ourselves in the process.


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