Parents' Guide to

A Monster Calls

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Heartrending adaptation explores the enormity of grief.

Movie PG-13 2016 108 minutes
A Monster Calls Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 12 parent reviews

age 15+

Excellent, but be careful with very sensitive/vulnerable viewers!

I am an artist. I loved the animation. I am a writer. The story-telling was unique and riveting. I am a mom. This was gut-wrenching. I am also a grandma. I am concerned for the vulnerable. I have always been extremely super-sensitive. This movie shook me to the core. I was a kid from a dysfunctional and abusive home. This movie absolutely RIPPED ME APART! Many parts of this movie can be triggers: nightmares, bullying, invalidation from adults, terrible loneliness, fear, having to "suck it up", inner rage with no place to put it, great loss, seeing the world as unknowable, BEING YELLED AT, feeling like everything is your fault, and having to deal with death. The stories the Tree Monster tells are hard enough for ADULTS to grapple with - let alone CHILDREN: People are both good and bad, but you don't know which. (Or, as the Monster says, "Humans are complicated beasts.") Situations are neither black nor white, but you don't know which. The world is a place in which you never REALLY know what's going on.... So, SUCK IT UP, KID!! DEAL WITH IT!! People MIGHT be nice to you. But then they DIE!!!! Or, people might NOT be nice to you. But it DOESN'T MATTER!! YOU don't matter! You might even be INVISIBLE! The whole world might even be a STORY! Who knows for sure??? You can't depend on anybody. Nobody is knowable. Not even YOURSELF! THE END! Can most people can handle that? I don't know. I'm not most people. I couldn't. Both I and another close to me had the same reaction after watching: we both sat in shell-shocked silence for the longest. I thought of Nihilism, frankly. The world-view is headed that way these days. PLEASE NOTE: extremely sensitive people may not be able to handle 'A Monster Calls' easily. Sensitive children, people who have been abused or neglected, or those who have some mental challenges to deal with should probably NOT watch this movie. It's raw. It's in-your-face. Then it ENDS. It was beautifully done. For what it was. Excellent movie, but VERY RAW and VERY POWERFUL. Please consider caution before viewing it, or before allowing young or vulnerable people to view it.
age 11+

A deep and deeply moving film

This is among the best movies ever made on the age between childhood and adulthood. It's the time when fairy tales are exchanged for stories in which good and evil are not so clear. It's when imaginary monsters are no longer feared, but reality can become more horrific than nightmares . This film is many stories within stories, all visually beautiful, sometimes painfully sad, sometimes triumphant, always thought provoking.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (12 ):
Kids say (26 ):

Author Ness penned this adaptation of his own novel, which is as poignant as his beautiful book and features brilliant performances by Jones, MacDougall, and Neeson. Director J.A. Bayona is no stranger to depicting intense mother-child dynamics. His 2012 historical drama The Impossible captured a mother and son's fraught post-tsunami journey; in A Monster Calls, there's just as treacherous a disaster looming over every interaction between Conor and his beloved mum -- the unspoken cancer that's eating away at her slowly but surely.

MacDougall gives one of the finest youth performances of 2016 as angry, sad, confused Conor, who's hoping beyond hope that his mum will get better but who also knows (as the Monster's visits and stories symbolize) that the inevitable is on its way -- and who's desperately afraid to admit that tangled up with anticipatory grief is a sense of possible relief. Jones is also wonderful as a mother who desperately wishes she had "100 years to give" her son but knows it's not a possibility. But the heart of the film isn't simply Conor and his mother but Conor and the Monster, and Neeson's spectacular rendering of the yew-tree creature is both frightening and comforting. As he tells Conor, the truth, like people, is complicated and even contradictory, but it's what you need to face to move forward.

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