starring Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson
screenplay by Patrick Ness, based on his novel
directed by J.A. Bayona
by Walter Chaw Tears are easy when the subject is the loss of a loved one. They come even when you don't particularly like the vehicle that inspires them. In the case of J.A. Bayona's A Monster Calls, the tears are for the most part earned by its generally uncompromising nature and the elegance of its animated interludes. They're so good, in fact, that I spent much of the movie's remainder wishing it were all animated in the same style, which is cribbed from artist Jim Kay's watercolour illustrations for the Patrick Ness novel upon which the film is based. The animated sequences are representations of the titular monster's stories. Voiced by Liam Neeson, he has three of them to tell little Conor (though only two are animated), with the expectation that when he's through, the boy will tell one back to him. Conor (Lewis MacDougall) has summoned the monster (a cross between Groot and an Ent), he thinks, so that the monster can heal Conor's ailing mother (Felicity Jones). Alas, the monster serves a different purpose. The animated portions remind in feeling and abstraction of Brad Bird's incomparable The Iron Giant--a film that is itself based around the death of a loved one and the need for the survivors to recover. The live-action portions, the best of them, remind of Bernard Rose's melancholic Paperhouse, but the sum is a bit less than its parts.