A Monster Calls (PG-13)
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This is based on a book I haven't read. I'm putting my review under "fantasy," but... honestly, it would probably fit better under either "drama" or "coming of age." Because it's unclear whether the fantasy element is real or not. (I mean, some viewers might say it's clearly not real, but others might say it clearly sort of is. Maybe. But IMHO, it's unclear.)
Um... so I'm not quite sure whether the movie takes place in Ireland or the UK. But there's a boy named Conor O'Malley, whose mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer. His parents are divorced, and his father lives in Los Angeles with his new family. At school, Conor is frequently bullied by a gang of other boys. Anyway, one night a yew tree transforms into a monster, who tells Conor that on subsequent nights, he will return and tell Conor three stories, after which Conor will tell the monster a fourth story. Of course, Conor is not particularly happy about this. Meanwhile, Conor's grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) comes to look after her daughter (Conor's mother) for awhile, and tells Conor that he will have to come to live with her. Which he very much doesn't want to do. Also, his father comes to visit, about which Conor has very mixed feelings.
Well, I don't want to spoil any details of the monster's first two stories, though I will say we get to see them play out in animated form. And the morals of the stories are totally different from what Conor expects; he can't really make any sense of them. But I thought they were pretty good. The third story is not at all the same, and it's very brief. Not really a story at all, actually. As for Conor's story, it isn't exactly surprising in and of itself. From the start, the monster let us know that it will be a recurring nightmare of Conor's, which we'd already seen. But more importantly, it leads to the revelation of a truth Conor had been hiding, because it disturbed him so much. Aside from that, I don't really want to say anything about the plot. It's definitely a depressing movie, but it has great characters and great pathos. It's hard to imagine I'd want to ever watch it a second time, but I'm very glad to have seen it this once.