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The Films of J.A. Bayona

The Orphanage & The Impossible

Click here and here for reviews.

A Monster Calls (November 28/16)

Based on a book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows Lewis MacDougall's Conor as he relies on an imaginary tree monster (Liam Neeson) to help him overcome a series of personal catastrophes - including daily encounters with a bully and a mother (Felicity Jones) afflicted with a terminal illness. It's a fairly standard coming-of-age setup that's employed to consistently (and aggravatingly) muted effect by director J.A. Bayona, as the filmmaker's pervasively subdued approach to Ness' low-key screenplay prevents one from wholeheartedly connecting to the material or the characters - which, in turn, makes it awfully difficult to work up much interest in or enthusiasm for the protagonist's continuing endeavors. There's little doubt, then, that A Monster Calls benefits substantially from its convincing atmosphere and stellar performances, and it's clear, too, that the title creature's seamless inclusion into the narrative plays an integral role in perpetuating the movie's mildly watchable vibe. (The film does receive jolts of energy from the Monster's periodic stories, which unfold via impressively and handsomely animated mini-movies.) The hands-off atmosphere ultimately ensures that the third act's big emotional revelations just aren't able to pack the punch that Bayona has surely intended, and it is, in the end, impossible to label A Monster Calls as anything other than a passable young-adult drama (that is, ironically enough, probably too frightening to appeal to small children).

out of

© David Nusair