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Twelve-year-old English boy Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is a lonely kid. His father lives in California; his loving mother (Felicity Jones) is terminally ill, and his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) makes a chilly substitute. His sole companion appears nightly in the intimidating form of a gigantic tree creature (voiced by Liam Neeson) who tells him fantastic tales of apothecaries and kings, handsome princes and wicked stepmothers. The monster challenges Conor to discover the truth in the stories that might give him the strength to make the best of his sorry lot.
J.A. Bayona’s adaptation of Patrick Ness’ young adult novel draws on a spectacular arsenal of CGI, shifting into ravishing painterly animation for the monster’s enthralling tales, to impart tough and fortifying wisdom about life, and about stories too.
“Mixing horror movie imagery with honest, heart-wrenching human truths, Bayona has created a dark, coming-of-age masterpiece…
Much of this success is greatly aided by the film’s dynamite cast. Although her part is minor, Jones is a delight as the tragic mother, her warm, loving presence filling each scene… Likewise, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell make great impressions… However, the majority of the film rests on the shoulders of MacDougall, a bright, new talent whose sweet and nuanced performance channels the complex emotions of pain and loss with aplomb…
Entertaining, tonally impeccable, and heartbreaking, this is a monster movie with a very human heart.” —Marten Carlson, Consequence of Sound