The common, perhaps pretentious, and ever-present commentary on book-to-film adaptations is that the book will always be better. (This is not, of course, to judge people who prefer movie adaptations to books, or vice versa, as both mediums have their strong points. That’s a piece for another time.)
A Monster Calls gives very little away in its trailer. To call it a coming-of-age tale would be a reasonable guess. Conor, the main character, is shown navigating the life of a child who is burdened with a great deal of troubles from being bullied to having a mother who is quite ill to the threat of being made to live with Sigourney Weaver.
Read the book first. A Monster Calls reads as follows: “The Monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting, the one from the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . . This monster is something different, something ancient, something wild. And it wants the truth.” I compel anyone to say that isn’t, at the very least, intriguing. It’s very fast-paced, very honest, and it sheds a certain light on the very adult aspects of childhood such as navigating separated parents, dealing with a parent who is being treated for a serious illness, and the pitfalls of bullying, among other things.
The trailer’s inclusion of quotes… didn’t so much tug on heartstrings so much as yank at them…
To dismiss this book because of its labeling as a Young Adult novel would be a mistake, as it approaches its universal topics in a way that resonates across age groups (and with a narrative that is almost tailored with the intention of making readers weep a bit). Much of A Monster Calls’s story echoes the experience the writer who originally had the idea, Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away from breast cancer before she could write the story (and so Patrick Ness gave the idea life with his voice).
A Monster Calls – the film – looks like it will stay fairly true to its source material. The Monster’s design looks to have stepped from the pages of the book, and Liam Neeson’s voice sounds natural coming from the massive yew tree that animates into The Monster. Watching the Monster crash through the cafeteria with Conor as he confronts his bullies and the scene where Conor is living out his nightmare again, with the world crumbling away around the old church near his home, look to be perfect visual translations of the pages from the book this story was born of. The trailer’s inclusion of quotes like Conor’s mother saying, “And if you need to break things, by God you break them,” didn’t so much tug on heartstrings so much as yank at them like the ropes of the old bell tower that we see tumble away in the trailer.
… go see A Monster Calls, but take some time before its release to read the book because it’s absolutely brilliant.
Honestly, there needs to be at least one more preview for this movie. A Monster Calls sees widespread theatrical release in early 2017, but there are limited viewings around the world in October. Really, this is a film that would make an absolute fortune if released closer to Halloween…but at the cost of focusing on only one aspect of its overall story instead of the bigger picture. To that end, perhaps it is better to wait until its proper, full release in theaters (as painful as that may be).
The short of it is this: go see A Monster Calls, but take some time before its release to read the book because it’s absolutely brilliant. If the book and preview are any indication, A Monster Calls will be a great start to 2017, cinematically speaking.
By Phil Gorski