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A Monster Calls

Directed by J.A. Bayona

Spain, 2016

HOME, 4 January 2017

A Monster Calls

There is a genuine emotional kick here.

It is a great film: moving, realistic, non-sentimental; and altogether satisfying. That out of the way, a few thoughts follow:

  • The monster (Liam Neeson again, though this time only in voice) is well fierce and embodies Conor’s (played by the accomplished young actor Lewis MacDougall) rage and anger, yet also the hope (being made out of the medicinal yew tree) that his mother will be cured.
  • At the end Conor is alone but safe. For it is a truism that monsters always get away. They cannot be captured or domesticated or killed.
  • It is a freak, a hybrid of man and tree and wilderness, but when Conor’s crisis is resolved – well, the monster‘s face can be read.
  • Now, how is Conor finally able to see that face, those eyes? Is it by smashing his grandmother’s furniture and his tormentor’s face in? By becoming a monster himself? And so realising that they are kindred spirits?
  • You cannot will a meeting with a monster; they don’t come when you whistle. Because Conor is asked to do too much, is stressed out and close to collapse at the start, that is why the monster calls. It arrives with a mission: to keep Conor human.
  • Such strength the monster has, and no reluctance about using it either. We fear the monster but, really, wouldn’t we want to be it? You are powerful, super-vital, terrifying to others: what’s not to like?
  • That question that the monster asked of Frankenstein: ‘Why did you make me?’ It tells us that Conor created the monster; it came from him. He needed help to forge a future and the monster – an Other that is of the Self – gave him that.

With due acknowledgement to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Seven Theses. See his Monster Theory (1996).