Just After Midnight: A Monster Calls review.

Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona

Starring: Felicity Jones, Lewis McDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Kebbell, Liam Neeson

A Monster Calls is the first film that have have watched in 2017 and what a start. I was already quite excited to see this film, J. A Bayona, director of the beautiful ‘The Orphanage’ has created something that looked as intriguing and arresting as his previous work from the trailer alone.

Connor is a boy struggling to come to terms with his mothers terminal illness, an absent father, a distant, authoritarian grandmother and being mercilessly bullied at school. One night, the yew tree in the church yard near the boy’s house comes to life and guides Connor in finding the strength to embark on his sad but inevitable life journey.

There is a fine display of acting talent in this film, Felicity Jones as the boys dying mother tugs on the heartstrings, Sigourney Weaver as his overbearing grandmother and Tony Kebbell as his absentee father both deliver fine turns, Liam Neeson gives a performance with some real gravitas as the titular monster, the real standout performance however was from newcomer Lewis McDougall, delivering a dramatic performance well in advance of his youth.

This is a beautifully shot film, in particular the animated storybook sequences, coming to life in vivid, moving watercolour and narrated by Neeson, punctuating the live action in a very affective manner. 

Although in many respects this is a dark fairytale, This isn’t a kids film. It is an affecting and emotionally draining coming-of-age exploration of having the courage to face an impossibility painful truth. It is fantastical, beautiful and incredibly sad. It brings to mind parallels to other such dark parables as Pans Labyrinth and even shades of The Iron Giant, That being said, it is also an incredible piece of work in its own right and a very strong start to 2017’s cinematic output.

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