Patrick Ness (original idea by Siobhan Dowd)
Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, James Melville.
Conor O’Malley is visited by a mysterious monster who intends to teach him a few lessons about life. A great book directed at pre-teens but applicable and heartwarming to all ages. This tale deals with emotionally taxing issues.
After reading it a few days ago, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness quickly became one of my favourite books. Then, within 24 hours of finishing the book I went to see the film version. First I will explain what I liked about the book and story, then I’ll compare the book to the film.
This novel is a great story. It simplifies complex issues so that a younger audience understands, yet somehow it connects strongly with more mature readers flawlessly. Ness’ great writing style compiled with the intriguing illustrations littered throughout make for an enjoyable reading experience and an easy, quick read.
Conor O’Malley, a thirteen year-old boy has to deal with the devastating reality of life with a terminally ill mother. He is isolated in school and deals with harsh bullies, nevertheless he gets on with it. That is until a monster calls to make Conor face the truth. It is so interesting to see how every character Conor meets treats him differently because of the situation. Conor is super aware of it happening and detests being pitied in the way he is.
Although it is targeted at a younger audience, it still manages to appeal strongly the readers emotions as almost everybody has had to go through losing a loved one. It shows Conor’s perspective on his mother’s state and how a boy of his age feels. The relationship between Conor and his mother is heartwarming, but the deterioration of both his mother and Conor is heartbreaking to read.
Concerning Conor’s monster, it is very open to interpretation. The monster comes to tell Conor some tales. However the monster is not a kind ethereal perfect being who has come to guide Conor on his way. He is, well, a monster. The monster can be harsh at times, and I would argue that the monster is ultimately a bad influence on Conor. He encourages Conor to be destructive and violent which I think was irresponsible considering how vulnerable Conor is at this point. As the story progresses, you start to wonder whether or not the monster is actually a figment of Conor’s imagination as the monster and his actions are not acknowledged by anyone else.
One of my favourite things in books is when characters are flawed. Simple, but very important. Almost every person in the story is flawed which makes for a much more human and realistic story. Conor is uncooperative and vulnerable. Conor’s mother lies to reassure him. Grandma is strict and stubborn. Dad is not there for the family. Harry and his cronies are cruel bullies. The monster is cryptic and unsympathetic. Lily was the reason everyone knew about Conor’s situation. Flawed characters make for realistic conflict compared to people being either perfect or evil.
“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between” – The monster
Surprisingly, I found this book’s story to share a lot of similarities with Skellig by David Almond (if you haven’t read it don’t bother). Skellig is one of my least favourite books, but it goes to show that A Monster Calls does a somewhat similar idea so much better.
Now for the film. It is visually amazing; the style of the tales being told by the monster are cool, good camera angles. It is just a very aesthetically pleasing film to watch. The acting is really good and the whole film is incredibly true to the book. I didn’t feel that the story transferred particularly well onto film for some reason. I was also surprised that they didn’t include Lily whatsoever in the film, as I thought she played a significant part.
Overall I really enjoyed the book and the film did it justice, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it if I had only watched the film and not read the book. I recommend that anyone who has not read the book should.