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A Monster Calls Upon the Fairy Tradition to Tell Its Tale

9 Jan


By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

A Monster Calls is a powerfully moving film about young Conor (spectacularly played by Lewis MacDougall) struggling to come to terms with the world around him. He is isolated. His mother Lizzie (Felicity Jones) is suffering from a terminal illness, his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) is stern, he is bullied at school and he wants to be closer to his father. In the latter, there’s distance between them. His parents divorced when he was young and the split was not without causing some rifts. This story is not as developed as the other three. The demons the boy faces manifest as a yew tree (menacingly voiced by Liam Neeson) who visits him nearly every night at 12:07 am.

This walking behemoth offers him three stories, and there’s a riddle in the parable that Conor never quite figures out. Technically, this creature is this lad’s imaginary friend, and to figure out how he can help is buried in the analogies of the animated tales that make up part of this story. Just how he comes to figure them out requires a stretch of the imagination, or realizing that we are living in a fairy tale world. In this realm, true to Welsh tradition, these mystical figures are portrayed in shades of grey than individuals who are either naughty or nice. The tales Conor hears is supposed to impart a lesson, but the question of whether his experience with the tree spirit is real or not is up to how he sees the world.

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