Saturday, 7 January 2017


Moviemaking in moulds - no matter how hard the experienced moviegoer may strive to dissociate one movie from the next, or the next movie from the one before, these moulds leave the same imprints on similar projects. No such striving is required to appreciate A Monster Calls' most appealing attributes, from its disarming wit to its winning design, but imprinted upon the memory of this particular experienced moviegoer are the stronger, superior attributes of a certain similar project. Its title will remain unreferenced, as this is a review of A Monster Calls and of its own attributes, whether appealing or otherwise, but J. A. Bayona is wilfully courting direct reference himself, and the comparison is largely unflattering. This is a charming, enjoyable film, painted - at times literally - in broad strokes in pursuit of establishing a firm connection with the viewer and of engendering bold responses from them. Bayona stays a most earnest filmmaker, dealing in tonal, emotional and stylistic histrionics that do not become him - this film is at its most persuasive when it selects small targets and applies precise aim. We're hurtled into a heady stew of fantasy and theatricality, every element executed with a charming sincerity that ensures at least a momentary connection, but without the necessary integrity to ensure that that connection is maintained. Patrick Ness' story is developed with an attention to complex detail that Bayona mostly bypasses en route to hokey catharses and a surfeit of, albeit brilliant, technical wizardry. With such a clumsy approach, A Monster Calls lets its bountiful potential down; it takes a broad aim at a small target - a particular ten-and-a-half-year-old Spanish fantasy film target - and only gets half way there.