ByRedmond Bacon, writer at
Have realised my dream of finally living in Berlin. I like movies, techno, and talking too much in bars.

The four-hankie drama A Monster Calls has been credited as one of the best films of the year, and should be a major contender come Oscar-time, especially given the heartbreaking performances from Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson. Even the creator of IMDB, who watched A Monster Calls as his 10,000th ever film, says that it was his favourite of 2016. You can check out the trailer below:

With its combination of emotional family drama and magic realism, as well as its all-star cast, A Monster Calls promises to be a hit by the time it reaches stateside early next year. It is already the biggest Spanish box office hit this year, a country that is known to make and embrace films featuring conflicted children and strange creatures such as The Spirit of The Beehive and Pan's Labyrinth. Yet the key question remains: is it based on a true story? Turns out, it's:

Based On A Novel With A Tragic Backstory

Illustration: Jim Kay
Illustration: Jim Kay

You might be thinking: hang on, how can a film featuring a giant Ent-like creature possibly be based on a true story? Turns out, despite the giant obviously not being real, the person who conceived of the novel based the idea on her own personal experiences. Siobhan Dowd knew that she was dying of breast cancer, and so came up with the concept of a visiting monster being used to confront children dealing with grief. Nevertheless, knowing that she didn't have any time, her editor entrusted it to Patrick Tess, author of the Chaos Walking trilogy, to continue after her death.

As Ness says of her vision:

"She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn't have, unfortunately, was time."

The Completion Of The Novel

Despite being entrusted to complete her concept, Ness made sure not to follow Siobhan's vision to a T, instead seeing where the story itself would take him. As he says:

"I wouldn't have taken it on if I didn't have complete freedom to go wherever I needed to go with it. If I'd felt hampered at all – again, even for very good reasons – then that harms the story, I think. And I did this not for egomaniacal reasons, that my decisions were somehow automatically right or some such nonsense, but because I know that this is what Siobhan would have done. She would have set it free, let it grow and change, and so I wasn't trying to guess what she might have written, I was merely following the same process she would have followed, which is a different thing."

The novel was an immediate success, winning a Carnegie Award in 2012 before being optioned for a film adaptation, which has garnered much praise for its depiction of cancer and the effect it has on children.

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Is The Depiction of Cancer Realistic?

Many films depict the horrors of cancer and other debilitating diseases, yet A Monster Calls is evidently trying to comfort kids, who may be going through potentially losing their parents, in a different way. When knowing that one of your parents are going to die, you have to develop an intelligent way to deal with it. Otherwise the result can be too emotionally overwhelming.

One doctor, writing for The Daily Mail, recommends the book, saying that, she knows about having to find ways to deal with the grief:

"Doctors like myself, who specialise in looking after patients with cancer, have to develop some emotional coping strategies."

The monster may be fantastical, but it works wonderfully as a metaphor for the complex emotions children have to process in order to deal with such a loss. The doctor praises its accuracy and honesty:

"Despite being aimed at a young audience, it is completely honest, never patronising nor remotely sentimental. It tackles this heartbreaking scenario with an incredibly accurate insight."

The film seems to carry on in that vein, managing a highly respectable Rotten Tomatoes score of 83% and launching it as a major Oscar contender, showing that although it contains elements of fantasy, it is based in real emotional truth. I, for one, can't wait to see it.

Are You Going To Watch A Monster Calls?

Source: The Daily Mail


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