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film review

Lewis MacDougall stars in A Monster Calls.Quim Vives

It is hard to know who, exactly, A Monster Calls is made for. Although it's based on a best-selling children's novel, J.A. Bayona's fantasy-drama is too mature to lure in the younger set and too one-dimensional to make much of an impression on adult audiences.

So we're stuck in the mushy middle, with a tale of young Conor (Lewis MacDougall, doing a fine enough job), who must suffer the taunts of his schoolmates and the discipline of his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver, struggling mightily with a British accent) as his mother slowly dies from cancer. To help him cope, Conor conjures up a Groot-like monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) to achieve emotional catharsis.

Dealing with such heavy matters as death, faith and forgiveness, the film wants to be a classic-in-the-making, but it just doesn't hit the emotional and narrative cues necessary for such a weighty job. Instead, it simply plods along, hoping that MacDougall's committed performance and Neeson's mighty timbre will be enough to carry the day – an unfair and selfish, if not necessarily monstrous, decision on Bayona's part.