I’ve never read A Monster Calls, but if the traditional ratio of quality from books to movies is any indication, the film has inspired me to pick up the children’s book. For those who never read the book, I won’t spoil it. Having come fresh eyed from the film, I felt the journey was easily the most important element the story had to offer. There’s a reason why it unfolds the way that it does. The visual style is also a very important element of the storytelling process. It may be easy for some to dismiss it as a failed attempt to integrate CGI into the live action, but those not too pretentious to see the film for the visual choices it makes to serve the story will find enjoyment. Every actor on screen gives the best performance possible, playing their characters as the subtle, complex people the story requires, recognizing that no one is purely any one thing but rather a sum of good and bad qualities, attempting to navigate a complicated world the best they can. To be sure, their performances are subtle, sometimes requiring a very keen eye to see the distinctly internal struggles that the film chooses not to hit the audience over the head with. Those facets of their performances, left unnoticed, will make or break anyone’s opinion of the quality of acting, or even the effectiveness of the story. It’s a bold move to leave that much of the success of the film in the hands of the audience to see what they aren’t being directly told, and I can’t say for sure if the movie will suffer for it, but I appreciate that they’re willing to trust us in a way most filmmakers refuse to. They left many layers to this film, many of which will go undiscovered if it isn’t properly scrutinized, but those types of choices are the kinds that put authors into the halls of literary canon, and in those ways I think they succeeded most of all.
I’m going to break one of my cardinal rules I set out in the beginning, but I feel strongly enough to make a recommendation. Watch this movie. Make time to watch this movie. If you’ll only be able to watch two movies this year (who are we kidding? Star Wars: Episode VIII is coming out this year), A Monster Calls needs to be the other one.