When it was revealed that Liam Neeson will be playing a giant fantastical tree monster in the upcoming film adaptation of the award-winning children’s novel A Monster Calls, fans were left curious to see how director; Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) would approach the portrayal of this unusual and challenging character. Neeson is no stranger to using his voice to great effect while playing a fantasy character (see his voice work as Aslan for the Chronicles of Narnia films), so the idea of him taking on such a role here doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination.
The above A Monster Calls teaser trailer is the first chance for those curious to catch a glimpse of both Neeson’s Monster and the visual landscape of this poignant story – one originally dreamed up by a dying mother looking to console the child she was leaving behind.
A Monster Calls is the story of Conor, a boy who faces the challenge of a very ill mother, school bullies and the isolation, or “Invisibility” the situation creates. In the vein of Where The Wild Things Are, Conor escapes into the world of fantasy and imagination, conjuring the Monster from an old and gnarled tree in the graveyard his bedroom overlooks. The source novel does not sugar coat the suffering of childhood either, and deals with the topics of loss, tragedy and loneliness that can be experienced at any age.
The film adaptation was penned by the source novel’s author Patrick Ness, who developed the story conceived by the terminally ill Siobhan Dowd. Felicity Jones (The Theory Of Everything) and Toby Kebbell (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) are playing Conor’s parents and Sigourney Weaver (Alien) will play his grandmother. Newcomer Lewis Macdougall will play Conor himself. This new trailer does not feature any of the film’s adult characters, instead focusing on narration provided by Neeson’s gravely tones – and clips that set up the difficult life of young Conor.
From watching this trailer, it seems A Monster Calls aims to tug at our heart strings – possibly mercilessly. The film’s tragic subject matter is visually enhanced by a darkly atmospheric tone that depicts the bleak outlook of this suffering child’s internal world and shows that Bayona’s expertise in this arena has made him a suitable fit as director. Neeson’s Gandalf-esque vocal narration is both somber and grandfatherly, contrasting to Macdougall’s vulnerability here. In addition to these aspects, borrowing the bitter sweet music score from Cloud Atlas hardly seems fair, provoking the already vivid sadness and probably actual tears in many viewers!
It is yet to be seen whether this film will be able to capture the emotional intelligence and subtle nuance of the source novel. Nonetheless, from the glimpse of the monster – which has echoes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents – plus the darkly beautiful visuals that are on display here, the movie is looking good so far.
A Monster Calls opens in U.S. theaters on October 14th, 2016.
Source: Focus Features