A story about grief and how the imagination is a very powerful thing.
When I set out to watch this movie I wasn’t sure what you expect. I hadn’t seen many trailers and the ones I had scene has me believing it was different, more like the Iron giant meets Harry Potter but I was surprised by this movie and could see myself watching it again. Also if anyone is interested the movie I’d most compare it to now is the Bridge to Terabithia.
First off Liam Neeson brings his gravelly tones to the only role worthy of them…a giant sentient yew tree. But yeah joking aside he managed to sound stern and yet warmly so which is just what our main character needed. Also the sickly mother is played by felicity Jones or some might recognise her as Jyn Erso from the standalone Star Wars movie Rogue One. Also for reasons I can’t gather Sigourney Weaver was in this playing an emotionally distant grandmother to the main character who spoke in stilted sentences for reasons I can only assume had to do with the fact she couldn’t do an English accent. And finally playing the main character Connor O’Malley we have Lewis MacDougall a young Scottish actor who doesn’t have great many acting credits…I imagine that’ll change after this…but does incredibly well at bringing a detached and damaged feel to the movie.
Like I said this film took me by surprise I expected the big old walking talking tree would dispense wisdom (he does in a way) and help a lonely young boy out instead the movie. teases the line as to whether the Monster is real…and it’s certainly real to Connor. Before making it seem far more likely that Connor is cracking under the strain of bullies and his mother dying.
Whether or not Liam Neeson’s character is real he does in his own way help Connor. He comes at the same time each night to tell Connor a story, which at the time seem to just screw with you but become clearer with hindsight to be about the duality of human nature and how people can be selfish or want something that isn’t nice or good but still be considered a good person. In fact I’d say that these moment where the tree recounts these fables are some of the best sequences in a movie I’ve seen in a long time. The sequences themselves are also artfully animated as water colours which connects them to Connor more personally because he’s an artist and his mother also wanted to be an artist before getting sick and before having a child. Honestly even if you think the entire movie is crap if you love fantasy and little animations them give those bits a watch.
Something I think films and TV do too much now is follow the when it rains it pours ideology. We see it a lot in sitcoms surprising where one character…very occasionally two will serve as the dumping point for everyone’s insult and anything bad can and always will happen to them. How this connects to the film however is that on top of potentially moving in with his strict controlling grandmother and his wayward dad coming back into the picture and the sick mum Connor also gets his ass kicked at school. Now I’ve been bullied but they get all up in his grill with it. The sad fact about bullying in real life…in most cases is that you’re not special, you’re not a target you just happen to be near someone with anger issues and or personal demons who sees you as weak enough to get away with it. It’s often you get your own personal bully and they never have a reason.
They do use it well though. It becomes clear after two explosive confrontations that he wants to be punished and so it now explains how in his own small way he was inviting these beatings. He could have avoided the bullies but he kept staring at them so they could turn his inward pain outward and also so that he could be punished for what the movie calls ‘his truth’
Now I’ve touched on a lot of the key elements of the movie but I hope beyond the peripheral I’ve not spoiled anything and I’m not going to either If I can avoid it. But I really can’t recommend this movie enough. It has the right balance of fantasy and feeling and it uses the fantasy elements in such a real way. It uses them as we always have to cope…whether it be with the mundane or the heartbreaking people have always used fantasy as their respite from reality and this movie latches onto that and pumps out a thought provoking movie that’s made its way into my top ten.
That being said the acting wasn’t perfect the grandmother as I said just felt awkward and only part of that was by design. I feel they only hired weaver because she’s a big name when a much better alternative could be found. Also at times I didn’t love MacDougall’s acting it just felt rough in the same way that many child actors do. So taking that into account I’m going to give this movie a 7/10 and suggest you watch it as soon as you can because it’s well worth it.
First Published on: www.reviewsphere.org