A Monster Calls – so I answer

“Stupid cancer movie.”

Tonight I found myself crying in a theater, a pool of tears gathered in my turtleneck, joining the chorus of sniffles that echoed around me. Of course, going into this, I knew I would be crying. But it still doesn’t prepare you for all the feels. So my natural reaction was a pouty, “Stupid cancer movie.” Which wasn’t very stupid at all. In fact, it was downright heartfelt.

On this blustery Los Angeles evening, it was the perfect ambiance to immerse ourselves into the aching and turbulent tale of a boy who must face his fears, set in a storybook small town in the English countryside.

Oh how it ached. In light and dark and water and eyes and nature and story and the simple and impossible questions of what is truth and what is real. I think we’ve all been there to some extent, all digested the personal pain of “why” in the broken world we inhabit. And this film laid it all out there so you could feel it all again! How generous.

Lewis MacDougall did a phenomenal job. He embodied both the comedy and the drama contained in the script. Liam Neeson was an excellent Grandpa Ent, leading “Connor O’Malley” through the maze of grief and empowerment and what it means to be human (as taught by a tree, naturally – to be fair, he’s been around and observing humans for thousands of years, thus his incredible well of wisdom – yay trees!). Ellen Ripley did a fine job as grandma, even if her accent was confused. Probably from all that trauma fighting aliens and leading the way for women in film. Sigh. It’s exhausting to be so driven. And the hunky dad was a hunky dad. Well done, hunky dad. I’m sorry your role wasn’t more profound, but I guess that’s partly why Connor needed the tree in the first place, since you dropped the ball on parenting and all. Womp womp.

Repeatedly crossing boundaries between reality and highly realistic shroom-worthy hallucinations, the film seems to follow three different acts. We follow Connor and his adventures through a beautifully filmed, animated, and scored piece that plays with one’s heartsrings like a cat with yarn. How sweet! but OUCH! Such wonderful plays of color and light and detail that make you wish you knew how to watercolor. Or sketch. Or write. Or any artistry at all. It makes you hungry to express in a very pleasing way.

Thus, this hastily written review penned by the dried salt still stinging my eyes. Not for all ages. Not for the faint of heart. But if you’re a sap like me (’cause he’s a tree…get it?) and you like watching people grow (can’t stop now, I’m on a roll) or you’d like to see Star Wars’ newest heroine battle cancer (ToT) or to see the man who played a bi-polar law-enforcement Lego embody an wizened, fiery tree, it’s a good one.

In select theatres 12/23

Still borrowed from focusfeatures.com/amonstercalls

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