Date watched: Monday 2nd January 2017
Year released: 2017
First time watching?: Yes
From IMDb: “A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mum’s terminal illness.”
I was not expecting this. Four days later I’m still trying to gather my thoughts about how I feel about it. In fact, my review is probably going to be quite short because I still don’t really know how to write everything down.
I’ll lead with saying that this movie really did tug on the heartstrings. My husband and I knew absolutely nothing about the movie going in except the fact that it was based on a book neither of us had read. I’m not even convinced we’d gone to the effort to even watch a trailer.
The Monster (who is in fact a yew tree from a church yard) visits Conor, a young boy who’s mother is suffering from a terminal illness to tell him stories, and tells Conor that in the end he will tell him his own story. The visuals of the Monster’s storytelling were beautifully created in the style of watercolour painting. They set my mind thinking about the section in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” where Hermione tells the story of three brothers, and the animation and style between the two ‘stories within stories’ are easily equal.
Huge praise goes out to Lewis MacDougall in the lead role; I have a strong feeling if he keeps his standard of acting as great as it was in this movie he’ll have a hugely successful career ahead of him. The emotion he poured into the role was raw and real, and made him a real shining star in the production. I’d even say he outshone some of the veterans he was working with; I did think Sigourney Weaver’s accent slipped back into American once or twice. Liam Neeson provided the voice for the Monster, and his voice was perfect for the role – the gruffness just seems to suit a tree.
It is based on a book that, as I said before I haven’t read. I have added it to my wishlist since watching the movie, but as the movie isn’t one you’d want to watch multiple times due to the sensitive subject matter, it’ll probably be some months before I eventually purchase and read the book. I do have other books by the author, Patrick Ness though, and if this movie is anything to go by I’m sure they’ll make for wonderful reads. It’s worth noting that Patrick Ness also wrote the screenplay to the movie in addition to the novel. I alway find it wonderful when authors do things like this because it means the movies tend to remain true to their original vision, and are treated with a little more respect (though of course that could be the bookworm in me thinking this).
This is an incredibly moving story; thought provoking for the most part although thanks to the fantasy elements of the story and the relationship Conor has with the Monster, it was strangely uplifting at times. There was no shying away from the fact that we knew where the story would eventually wind up, but it still packed a pretty emotional punch at the end.
My rating: 7/10