*Warning this review contains spoilers*
Juan Antonio Bayona has proven himself to be a very talented film director over the space of 11 years and three, soon to be four, films. From his frightening yet sombre debut with El Orfanato (The Orphanage) in 2007 to the harrowing yet hopefull The Impossible in 2012. And now with his next film to release in a week and a half, the highly anticpated Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom it is safe to say the director has made a name for himself. A Monster Calls from 2017 (UK release) is a culmination of his previous films in many ways. Combining the small setting similar to that in El Orfanato, focusing on a single family in a small location with the cinematic grandeur that you can see in The Impossible. The story follows Conner O'Malley, palyed by newcomer Lewis MacDougall. He deals with not only his mothers cancer but also his Grandmother, played wonderfully by Signoury Weaver. The two have very distinct and different personalities which results in a clash. The culmination of these events summons The Monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, who tells Conner stories with the eventual goal of teaching Conner about the world and helping him to cope. A simple story, but where it shines is in its development of its characters and how it allows them to grow. The relationship between Conner and his grandmother as mentioned before, come to clashes. Conners Grandmother being a very proud women who keeps both a tidy house and appearance. Something that can be seen to be abandonned as the film goes on as the Grandmother wears less high end and flashy clothes and no make up, showing the character has learnt that there are more important things than how one looks. Signoury does a very good job with this role, playing the character very sternly at the start, then showing a softer side near the end. She makes the character relatable and you see her point of view through her actions in the film. Culminating in a resoluton between her and Conner where they realize that they do have something in common, Conners mother. The only issue is that her accent is a bit muddled and is clear that the actress is trying to do an English accent, yet still she provides a believable performance. Felicity Jones who plays the mother, also gives a very good performance, hiding the anger of her situation witha mixture of hopefulness and sadness. And appraisal must be given to the makeup for the tranformation preformed on Felicty as the film progresses and her characters wellbeing deteriorates. The main stars though are are Neeson and MacDougall. MacDougall does falter here and there, in smaller scenes his acting does appear a bit wooden, but when it really counts he does give a very heartfelt performances that transpires the pain his character is in. Neeson voice work on the monster is fantastic, with help from some audio work on his voice he brings the Monster alive, you can feel the might and majesty of the creature as it talks and belief its wisdom. Helped evermore by Bayona's mastery of the camera. Every shot is well framed and brings you into the world of the film. Using more one shots and very few cuts also helps to not interupt the film. The first two told stories feels very unique to the film. Not only in the fact that the stories are telling Conners the truth of the world as it were. That people who are thought to be the heroes can be the villains and that you should never abandon what you believe in. But also that they are told with animation that is as if someone is painting with water colours. Made more so profound when we discover at by the end that it is how both Conner and his Mother before him painted but also that the stories are ones that his mother painted when she was a child. Including a painting of herself on the shoulders of the Monster.
This film is beautifully created, with a few minor bumps, the arc with Conners father, played by Toby Kebbel, whilst nice and is not the typical shaming of the father who left, that one might expect, it does feel a bit jarring. Besides that though it is a beautiful story translated well into film by Bayona with his usual themes of loss but also sombre hope. That delivers a strong message and can bring more than a few tears to the eye. A very mature story and one that should be seen by all.