Published by Walker Books on September 27th 2011
Genres: Children's Fiction, Fantasy
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one 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, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
The film version of A Monster Calls will be released in Australia on July 27 (this coming Thursday!). A review of the book is already up on this site, as well as a Q and A with the author, Patrick Ness, but let’s talk about the film.
A Monster Calls was creepy and tense in book format, but the film amplifies the feeling of unease, even of despair. I’m not sure I’d want to take my children to see it. Of course, this is also a story about a journey into and through grief, so it was never going to be all sunshine and rainbows, but there are moments of levity here and there. The snarkiness of Conor’s dialog comes through, but not as much as I hoped it might.
As book adaptations go, this one is remarkably faithful – almost to the letter. There are some extra embellishments that are perfect for a visual medium, such as Conor and his mum’s sketches, and seeing the graveyard, the nightmare, the town and the hospital brought to life on the big screen adds so much more to the story.
Then there are the stories told by the monster – watercolour interludes that take the viewer out of the main story and into a dreamscape. It’s an interesting device, but I’m still not convinced by how the stories relate to Conor’s feelings about his mother’s illness.
The effects are simply brilliant, with the capture of Liam Neeson’s face and his animation into a giant tree-monster the highlight. He melds into the surrounding settings seamlessly, and Lewis MacDougal (Conor) did an excellent job of acting like there really was a monster in his backyard. Sigourney Weaver makes a great Grandma, although her super-posh English accent may have been a little over the top.
A Monster Calls was certainly the best book-to-film adaptation I’ve seen in a long while.
Just make sure you bring the tissues.
A Monster Calls releases in Australian cinemas on July 27. Although my giveaway has now ended, there are still plenty of ticket giveaways around. Check out Thoughts by Tash or, if you get in quickly, Book Nerd Reviews.