Release date:December 23, 2016
(limited; wide: Jan. 6)
Director:Juan Antonio Bayona
MPAA Rating:PG-13 (for thematic content and some scary images)
Starring:Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver
To start things off this is not a lighthearted, whimsical, romp through some fantasy world of elves and magic. This is a film that, right from the start, jumps into some very serious subject matter.
We are introduced to a young boy named Conor, who is brought to us admirably by Lewis MacDougall. This is a young man tormented by bullies, an absent father, an overbearing grandmother, and worst of all an extremely ill mother (Like I said NOT a lighthearted film).
In the beginning it seems as though Conor is running the house due his mother having to work a lot of shifts, but it is quickly revealed that she is deathly ill and he is the one mostly maintaining the house. She does what she can, but her illness greatly limits her abilities.
Conor is is shown to be tortured at school by a band of ruffians, who make it their propose to take out their own insecurities on him, by mocking him and beating him on the regular. In addition to this Conor is plagued by a recurring dream of him standing outside of an old dilapidated church when all of a sudden the earth splits open and begins to swallow up his mother! He rushes to save her, but in the dream, he is unable to. She slips from his grasp into the pit never to be seen again, and he then he awakens. He awakens at the same time every night: 12:07 am (this become relevent later on in the film).
Conor attempts to cope with all of this by drawing. He is shown several times drawing late at night. In fact it is during one of these late night sessions when the “Monster” first appears. Now, of course the Monster is a CGI creation, but I will say that it is well done.
The creature grabs hold of Conor and informs him that he will told 3 stories all of which are designed to help him through this ordeal. Conor, however, (and for obvious reasons) does not care about any “stories”. The Monster, however, is insistent and with each story Conor is given insight to new and different perceptions. There is, however, no “magic” moment of revelation when everything falls into place and they live happily ever after. Every lesson is a hard one, every learning moment comes through pain, and this is something that I greatly appreciated!
This film is definitely one of heavy emotions, dismal situations, firebrand discoveries, as well as pockets of brightlight hope partnered with great warmth and tenderness. I found myself hardpressed not to weep in the theater even though I could hear many others who succumbed.
I highly recommend this film especially because in this era of everything being handed to characters on a silver platter of right now, this film shows the road of stuggle that leads to discovery.