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Lewis MacDougall stars in A Monster Calls.

Quim Vives

2 out of 4 stars

Title
A Monster Calls
Written by
Patrick Ness
Directed by
J.A. Bayona
Starring
Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson
Genre
Fantasy
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2017

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.

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