It’s not Groot! A Monster Calls: Book and Movie Review


Erik Calderon, Staff Writer

“I don’t see you.  To me you are invisible, “ Harry (James Melville), the school bully, said to Conor (Louis MacDougall) during their lunch break at school.  That’s just the worst thing that could have been said to Conor, especially at this point in his life; his mom is dying, his dad moved to America with another woman, and he is all alone having to face the eventual death of his mom.  Conor, brewing for a few moments, finally makes the decision to call The Monster (Liam Neeson).  The Monster appears and decides to tell Conor the last of three stories, the story about an invisible man.  The story inspires Conor to fight back, to show the world that he is not invisible.  The Monster and him both attack Harry full force, putting him in the hospital.

The film, A Monster Calls, directed by J.A. Bayona is based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the screenplay for the film.  The book and film, pretty much follow each other.  There are a few small differences, but not enough to make a note of.  The film is 108 minutes long, rated PG-13, was shot with a budget of $43 Million on an Arri Alexa in England and Spain.  The film and book are about a boy, dealing with the eventual loss of his mom is befriended by a “Tree” Monster that helps him navigate into a world without his mom.

The basic story was deep and heartfelt.  A mother (Felicity Jones), dying of cancer has to figure out what to do with her son.  The son, Conor, at home with a single mom has to take care of himself and do the work of an adult at the early age of 12.   Through the use of stories, the Monster, visits Conor every night at 12:07am helping him navigate the world and deal with his emotional struggles of losing his mom and being bullied at school.   Conor must make a choice between life and death.  The monster gives him one chance to pass this test, to tell him his true story, after hearing three stories of the Monsters; if Conor fails to pass the test, the Monster will kill him.

I truly enjoyed reading the book.  It is a page turner and draws you into Conors world.  The stories that the Monster tells are very intriguing and very well thought out.  They make you think about things a bit differently.  The movie, on the other hand, was a bit slow.  The acting lacked a bit of reality to it.  I wonder if it could be because the film was shot in London with a totally different perspective on life.   I’ve been sticking to my motto, “the book is always better,” except for a very few rare cases.  This stands true for this series; the book is better.  I think I may have enjoyed the film a bit more because I had read the book and understood the characters a bit more along with their motivations.  I think the director, J.A. Bayona failed to get the backstory and  motivations across in the film.  For example, in the book, Harry, the school bully is very important in helping us understand what is going on with Conor.  Their relationship in the film fails to show us that.  Also, in the novel, Conor has a friend that tries hard to help him, that is completely absent in the film.  Her role, along with Harry’s really help us understand how much Conor is struggling with the fate of his mom.

All in all, I think this is one film that is worth watching, especially if you’ve read the book.  I don’t think this film is meant for kids, or even young adults.  Connecting with this film takes years of struggle, experience and wisdom and is I believe is meant for an older crowd, especially if you’ve ever dealt with loss.


Check out our MovieMakers Movie Review with Steffi Grace and Erik Calderon: