Oscars Preview: 30 Movies to Watch Before the Nominations Come Out!

26 of 31

Image via Focus Features

A Monster Calls

What it’s about:

A Monster Calls focuses on Conor O’Malley, a thirteen-year-old boy who is visited regularly by a monster, just after midnight, at 12:07. The monster comes to tell Conor stories, on the condition that when he is finished, Conor will provide his own story. While the monster makes his nightly visits, Conor’s mother’s illness progressively gets worse. Conor’s grief, much like the monster, is ever-encroaching, affecting every area of his life. But the more that Conor listens to the monster, the more he understands what his own story will be.

Major Players:

J. A. Bayona directed the film, and writer Patrick Ness adapted his own novel into the screenplay – though the novel was based on a story by late writer Siobhan Dowd. Conor is played by relative newcomer Lewis MacDougall, while 2015 Best Actress nominee Felicity Jones plays Conor’s sick mother. Sigourney Weaver, a three-time nominee, plays Conor’s grandmother, while one-time nominee Liam Neeson provides the voice of the Monster.

What the Critics are Saying:

With an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 76% on Metacritic, critics are expressing appreciation and acclaim for the film. Many are applauding the top-notch cast, like Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal, who writes that, “A couple of flawless live-action performances share the screen with lovely animation, and with whatever digital magic spawned the monster.” The criticism of the movie seems to stem mainly from a sense of emotional manipulation. As The Atlantic’s David Sims writes, “…you may walk out of the theater feeling that its emotional gut-punch was more of a sucker punch.” But Noel Murray of The A.V. Club expresses disagreement, noting that “every time the narrative seems to be headed toward some pat, sentimental revelation about loss and healing, it lands just a little off-center, avoiding predictability.”

Possible Nominations:

Best Director (Bayona), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ness), Supporting Actress (Jones), Cinematography (Oscar Faura)