The adaptation showed up just after midnight. As they do.
And I was waiting when it came, because I’ve been ready for this book to be made into a film since I first read it in 2012, five years ago.
A Monster Calls owns a piece of my soul, I think, which is usually cause for alarm with a thing that is in the hands of other people, but I wasn’t as nervous about this version of the story as I usually am when a beloved book makes the jump to the screen, because the author, Patrick Ness, wrote the screenplay. And this is not an instance where I believe the film is better than the book, but where the film enhanced what was already on the page. Honed it.
So, even though all the fangirl in me wants to do is gush about how there’s going to be so much more content for her A Monster Calls tumblr and sigh happily over the score and the sound of Liam Neeson’s voice, I’ll try to focus on some of the major changes/enhancements that were made in the movie.
SPOILERS ARE AHEAD. TURN BACK OR THEY WILL SWALLOW YOU WHOLE.
- The nightmare. Seeing the nightmare actually played out was intense. While I would have liked to see the second monster that appears only in the nightmares in the book, I think that the existential crisis Conor experiences is a good enough monster on its own in the film.
- School. As I get to below, some of the key events that lead Conor to feeling isolated at school occur in the book and not in the movie. A lot of the frustrations he experiences with being ignored and invisible don’t make quite as much sense as they could have otherwise, had they been included, but it’s not a huge loss.
- Lily. In the book, Conor has a friend named Lily, who was quite close with him until she somehow spread the information that Conor’s mum had cancer to the rest of the school. After that, they have a bit of a contentious relationship, but it does have a good resolution. In the film, however, Lily isn’t really even mentioned, though she does appear.
- The Father. Oh, Conor’s dad. (I think his name is Liam, in the book?) I resented his behavior in the book and I still resent it now. But, he feels more like an actual person: he jokes with Conor, they go on outings while he’s back visiting, and the bit that was most important to me–he helps Conor clean up his grandmother’s sitting room after he’s smashed it to smithereens.
- Lizzie, Conor’s mum, and her relationship with Conor. First off, she gets an actual name, which is a huge improvement in my eyes. Somehow it makes her more of a real person to me. In the book, her relationship with Conor is portrayed pretty sparsely–I don’t mean that to say that they don’t care for each other or love each other in the book, because they do, very much. In the film, though, we see them interacting. We see that they share an affinity for art, which becomes woven throughout the plot, coming into its own at the incredibly touching and sob-inducing ending.
- 12:07. SPOILER SPOILER EXTREME SPOILER! The film ends after the book does, and I think I’ll be forever grateful for that. Because it gave the audience a moment to recover from what happens at the final 12:07 (something that is implied at in the book, but never stated outright). I loved the choice to have Lizzie stare the monster right in the eyes before she died (partially because I’d always been of the opinion that Conor’s grandmother could see it), and then reveal through her art, one of the strongest connections she had with Conor, that she’d called on the yew monster too, once upon a time. I think I gasped when he flipped to that page of her sketchbook.
- And oh, okay,
onemany gushes. This movie is flat-out gorgeous. The music, for which I am anxiously awaiting sheet music. The fairy-tale watercolor sequences. The design of the yew monster, watching it pull itself together out of the ground. The performances of the actors, especially Lewis MacDougall. The damn atmosphere and cinematography. (There’s one image in particular that I want to crawl inside and live in because of how stunning it is.) Everyone involved with this film should be proud.
I’m sure there are things I missed in this comparison, but I couldn’t write this post yesterday, because I had a headache from crying at the movie, and had to do it today while it was still fresh in my mind. I’d love to see it again and add to this post, taking down all the little details and maybe even doing some kind of analysis on it, but that will have to wait until A Monster Calls is released on DVD; I had to drive to a theater almost forty minutes away to see it as it is. Once I get my hands on it, though, essays for daysssss.
But if you get a chance to go see A Monster Calls because you’re lucky enough to have a theater playing it near you/in your town, GO. Go see it. Go and learn the importance of stories and the truths they carry. Learn to let go and heal.
The monster believes in you.