A Monster Calls (film)

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A Monster Calls
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJ. A. Bayona
Screenplay byPatrick Ness
Based onA Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
(from an idea by Siobhan Dowd)
Produced byBelén Atienza
CinematographyÓscar Faura
Edited by
Music byFernando Velázquez
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 10, 2016 (2016-09-10) (TIFF)
  • October 7, 2016 (2016-10-07) (Spain)
  • January 1, 2017 (2017-01-01) (United Kingdom)
Running time
108 minutes[2]
  • Spain[3]
  • United Kingdom[3]
  • United States
Budget$43 million[4]
Box office$47.3 million[5]

A Monster Calls is a 2016 dark fantasy drama film directed by J. A. Bayona and starring Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, and Liam Neeson. Featuring a screenplay adapted by Patrick Ness from his own 2011 novel of the same name, the film follows a boy grappling with his mother's terminal illness who is visited and told stories by a giant anthropomorphic yew tree.

The film rights to Ness' novel were acquired by Focus Features in March 2014, after which he was hired as screenwriter and Bayona signed on as director. Jones was cast that April, Neeson joined the film in May, and the rest of the main roles were cast by September. Principal photography began on 30 September, with filming taking place primarily in West Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Lancashire in England, as well as in Bayona's native Spain.[3]

After premiering on 10 September 2016 at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film was theatrically released on 7 October in Spain by Universal Pictures, on 1 January 2017 in the United Kingdom by Entertainment One, and five days later in the United States by Focus Features. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise for Bayona's direction, the acting, the visual effects, and the thematic content, but underperformed at the box office, grossing $47 million worldwide.[5]


In rural England, 12-year-old Conor O'Malley has a close bond with his seriously ill mother. He asks her mother for help following her regular chemotherapy treatments, but Conor does not like his strict grandmother and is troubled by the plan for him to go live with her in the event of his mother's death, as his father lives in the United States and has a new wife and daughter.

At school, Conor is regularly tormented by his classmate Harry. He is also plagued by a nightmare in which the old church near his house collapses into a hole, and he tries desperately to hold on to his mother to prevent her from plummeting to her death. Conor vents his emotions by drawing, a skill he learned from his mother.

One night, at exactly seven minutes past midnight, Conor sees the large yew tree next to the church transform into a gnarled Monster and approach his home. The Monster says it will tell Conor three stories during their next meetings, after which Conor must tell the Monster the truth of his nightmare.

In the Monster's first story, a prince flees from his step-grandmother, the supposedly-evil queen. He then kills his sleeping beloved and scapegoats the queen so the people turn against her and make him king. The Monster, knowing the truth, takes the queen and hides her far away.

As Conor's mother worsens, he moves in with his grandmother. His father comes for a visit and takes Conor to an amusement park. He invites Conor to come spend Christmas with him, but Conor is disappointed, as he had hoped his father would ask him to move to America.

That evening, Conor summons the Monster by making the hands of his grandmother's prized grandfather clock display 12:07. In the Monster's second story, a hard-hearted parson forbids an apothecary from extracting medicine from an old yew tree, only to change his mind when his own children become ill. The apothecary refuses to help him, and the Monster begins to destroy the parson's house as punishment. Conor enthusiastically joins in on the destruction, and really destroys his grandmother's sitting room in a fit of frustration. When she returns, his grandmother, while shocked and upset, does not punish Conor.

The doctors try a final treatment. As it is derived from the yew, Conor implores the Monster to heal his mother, but the Monster dismisses the matter as outside of his responsibility. At school, after Harry tells Conor he will no longer bother him because he "no longer sees [him]", the Monster tells his third story, a brief tale about a man no one sees who cannot stand it anymore, and calls a monster. Conor angrily attacks Harry, hospitalizing him. To his disappointment, the head teacher, aware of his current home situation, refrains from punishing Conor.

When it becomes clear his mother will die, Conor runs to the yew tree, and the Monster forces him to relive his recurring nightmare. His mother dangles from Conor's hand over the edge of the enormous sinkhole and then falls, disappearing into the void. The Monster repeatedly demands that Conor tell his story, saying it is the only way for him to be set free, but Conor steadfastly refuses, fearing the truth will kill him.

Eventually, Conor admits that in his nightmare he lets go of his mother's hand. He says he has long suspected his mother will not survive, and secretly hoped she would die to end their suffering, although, at the same time, he did not want her to die. The Monster commends Conor for his bravery in telling the truth and tells him that it is human to feel as he does.

Conor's grandmother finds him asleep under the tree and takes him to the hospital. Conor embraces his mother, and she glances at the Monster and dies at exactly seven minutes past midnight. Back at his grandmother's house, Conor learns his grandmother has refurbished his mother's old room for him. He finds his mother's childhood art book, which includes pictures of characters from the stories the Monster told him, as well as a drawing of his mother as a child on the Monster's shoulder.


  • Lewis MacDougall as Conor O'Malley
    • Max Golds as 5-year-old Conor
  • Sigourney Weaver as Mrs. Clayton (credited as "Grandma"), Conor’s strict grandmother
  • Felicity Jones as Elisabeth "Lizzie" Clayton (credited as "Mom"), Conor’s mother, who is undergoing treatment for an unspecified terminal illness
  • Toby Kebbell as Liam O'Malley (credited as "Dad"), Conor’s father, who is divorced from Lizzie and now lives in the United States with his new wife and daughter
  • James Melville as Harry, a school bully who frequently targets Conor
  • Geraldine Chaplin as the head teacher at Conor’s school
  • Liam Neeson as the "Monster", a giant humanoid yew tree. Neeson provided the Monster's voice and motion capture performance, while Tom Holland served as the stand-in for the Monster on set.[6][7] Additionally, Neeson appears in the film in a photograph as Conor's grandfather.


Focus Features bought the rights to Patrick Ness' book in March 2014.[8] Ness served as the film's screenwriter, with J. A. Bayona hired as director.[9] Felicity Jones was cast on 23 April 2014,[10] Liam Neeson was cast on 8 May,[11] Sigourney Weaver was cast on 18 August,[12] and Toby Kebbell was cast on 19 August.[13] On 3 September, Ness tweeted that Lewis MacDougall had been cast in the lead role.[14] Geraldine Chaplin joined the cast of the film on 30 September.[15]


Principal photography began on 30 September 2014,[16] and took place in Spain and Britain.[15][17] On 9 October, filming began on location in Glossop, Preston, Lancashire (Ramsbottom), Rivington Pike (Chorley/Horwich), Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Marsden, West Yorkshire.[18]

Liam Neeson, who voices the film's titular tree creature, was not on set throughout the shooting process, having completed his motion-capture performance, with MacDougall in the room, during a two-week period beforehand.[19] Actor Tom Holland, who had previously worked with Bayona on The Impossible (2012), worked on set as the stand-in for the Monster.[6][7]


In the United States, the film was originally scheduled for an October 2016 release,[20][21] before being rescheduled for a limited rollout on 23 December 2016, followed by a wide release on 6 January 2017.[22] It was released in the United Kingdom on 1 January 2017 by Entertainment One and Lionsgate,[23] and in India on 6 January 2017 by Relativity B4U.[24]


Box office[edit]

A Monster Calls grossed $3.7 million in the United States and Canada and $43.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $47.2 million, against a production budget of $43 million.[5]

In North America, the film had its wide release alongside the opening of Underworld: Blood Wars and the wide expansions of Hidden Figures and Lion, and was initially expected to gross around $10 million from 1,523 theaters over the weekend.[25] However, after making just $659,000 on its first day, weekend projections were lowered to $2 million, which it ended up grossing, finishing 13th at the box office.[26] In its second weekend of wide release, the film grossed $537,262 (a drop of 74.2%), and in its third week, it made just $19,080 (a drop of 96.4%) after being pulled from all but 42 theaters, one of the biggest third week theater drops in history.[27][28]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 86% of 266 critics' reviews of the film are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10; the site's "critics consensus" reads: "A Monster Calls deftly balances dark themes and fantastical elements to deliver an engrossing and uncommonly moving entry in the crowded coming-of-age genre."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on reviews from 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[31]


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards 6 February 2017 Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Nominated [32]
Best Intergenerational Film A Monster Calls Nominated
Camerimage 19 November 2016 Golden Frog Award for Best Cinematography Óscar Faura Nominated [33]
Critics' Choice Awards 11 December 2016 Best Young Performer Lewis MacDougall Nominated [34]
Best Visual Effects A Monster Calls Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society 19 December 2016 Best Supporting Actress Felicity Jones Nominated [35]
Empire Awards 19 March 2017 Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy A Monster Calls Won [36]
Best Male Newcomer Lewis MacDougall Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards 8 December 2016 Breakthrough of the Year Lewis MacDougall Nominated [37]
Gaudí Awards 29 January 2017 Best Non-Catalan Language Film A Monster Calls Won [38]
Best Director J. A. Bayona Won
Best Production Supervision Sandra Hermida Won
Best Art Direction Eugenio Caballero Won
Best Editing Jaume Martí and Bernat Vilaplana Won
Best Original Music Fernando Velázquez Nominated
Best Cinematography Oscar Faura Won
Best Costume Design Steven Noble Nominated
Best Sound Oriol Tarragó, Peter Glossop, Marc Orts Won
Best Visual Effects Félix Bergés, Pau Costa, David Martí, Montse Ribé Won
Golden Tomato Awards 12 January 2017 Best British Movie 2016 A Monster Calls 2nd Place [39]
Best Kids/Family Movie 2016 A Monster Calls 3rd Place
Goya Awards 4 February 2017 Best Film A Monster Calls Nominated [40]
Best Director J. A. Bayona Won
Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Patrick Ness Nominated
Best Original Score Fernando Velázquez Won
Best Cinematography Óscar Faura Won
Best Editing Jaume Martí and Bernat Vilaplana Won
Best Production Supervision Sandra Hermida Muniz Won
Best Art Direction Eugenio Caballero Won
Best Makeup and Hairstyles Marese Langan and David Martí Won
Best Sound Peter Glossop, Marc Orts and Oriol Tarragó Won
Best Special Effects Felix Bergés and Pau Costa Won
London Film Critics' Circle 22 January 2017 Young British/Irish Performer of the Year Lewis MacDougall Won [41]
Premios Feroz 23 January 2017 Best Drama Film A Monster Calls Nominated [42]
Best Director J. A. Bayona Nominated
Best Screenplay Patrick Ness Nominated
Best Main Actor Lewis MacDougall Nominated
Best Original Soundtrack Fernando Velázquez Won
Best Trailer A Monster Calls Nominated
Best Film Poster A Monster Calls Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society 12 December 2016 Best Visual Effects A Monster Calls Nominated [43][44]
Saturn Awards 28 June 2017 Best Fantasy Film A Monster Calls Nominated [45]
Best Performance by a Younger Actor Lewis MacDougall Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association 18 December 2016 Best Visual Effects A Monster Calls Nominated [46]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association 5 December 2016 Best Youth Performance Lewis MacDougall Nominated [47]
Best Adapted Screenplay Patrick Ness Nominated
Best Voice Performance Liam Neeson Won
Best Motion Capture Performance Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'A Monster Calls': Toronto Review". Screen Daily. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  2. ^ "A Monster Calls (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "A Monster Calls". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  4. ^ Browne, Kit Simpson (15 September 2016). "Patrick Ness Explains Why 'A Monster Calls' Is Going To Make You Cry". Archived from the original on 10 October 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "A Monster Calls (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  6. ^ a b Schwerdtfeger, Conner (24 September 2016). "The Strange Role Spider-Man Star Tom Holland Plays in 'A Monster Calls'". Cinemablend. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b Siegel, Tatiana (22 September 2016). "'Spider-Man' Star Tom Holland's Surprising Role: Monster Stand-In". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike (5 March 2014). "Focus Features Makes $20 Million Deal For 'A Monster Calls' Movie". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  9. ^ "Focus Dates 'A Monster Calls' For October 2016". Deadline Hollywood. 9 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Felicity Jones To Star In Juan Antonio Bayona's 'A Monster Calls'". deadline.com. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  11. ^ McClintock, Pamela (8 May 2014). "Cannes: Liam Neeson Joins 'A Monster Calls'". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  12. ^ "Sigourney Weaver Joins High-Profile 'A Monster Calls'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  13. ^ "'Fantastic Four' Actor Toby Kebbell in Talks to Join 'A Monster Calls'". Variety.com.
  14. ^ Espina, Alfonso (4 September 2014). "Lewis MacDougall to Lead Adaptation of Patrick Ness' 'A Monster Calls'". upandcomers.net. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  15. ^ a b "Three Join 'A Monster Calls'". Deadline Hollywood. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  16. ^ "'A Monster Calls' Begins Production". participantmedia.com. 30 September 2014. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Production Begins on A Monster Calls, Starring Liam Neeson". ComingSoon.net. 30 September 2014. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Hollywood film begins filming in Preston". lep.co.uk. 9 October 2014. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  19. ^ Lee, Ashley (8 December 2016). "'A Monster Calls' Speaks to Both Kids and Adults, Says Sigourney Weaver". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Focus Features Sets A Monster Calls for 14 October 2016". ComingSoon.net. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  21. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (1 June 2016). "'A Monster Calls' A Week Later In October". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  22. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (29 August 2016). "Focus Features' 'A Monster Calls' Dials Up Christmas Weekend Release". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  23. ^ Lloyd, Kenji (19 June 2016). "A Monster Calls UK Release Date Set for January, The Tree Awakens on First Poster". Final Reel. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  24. ^ "A Monster Calls India Trailer". YouTube.
  25. ^ "'Hidden Figures' is likely to draw crowds as 'Rogue One' stays on top of the box office". Los Angeles Times. 4 January 2017.
  26. ^ "'Rogue One' Doesn't Want To Fall To 'Hidden Figures' As Winter Storm Helena Closes Theaters". Deadline Hollywood. 9 January 2017.
  27. ^ "Uni/Blumhouse's 'Split' Is A Hit With High $39M To $40M+; 'Xander Cage' Falls Down". 23 January 2017.
  28. ^ "Biggest Theater Drops". Box Office Mojo.
  29. ^ "A Monster Calls (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  30. ^ "A Monster Calls Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  31. ^ CinemaScore (6 January 2017). "A Monster Calls". Retrieved 1 June 2017 – via Twitter.
  32. ^ Rahman, Abid (15 December 2016). "Denzel Washington's 'Fences' Leads Nominations for AARP's Movies for Grownups Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  33. ^ "Camerimage 2016 Main Competition Line-up!". Camerimage. 24 October 2016. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  34. ^ "La La Land Leads with 12 Nominations for the 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards". criticschoice.com. Critics' Choice. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  35. ^ Graham, Adam (14 December 2016). "Local critics: 'Moonlight', 'Manchester' best of 2016". The Detroit News. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  36. ^ Nugent, John (19 March 2017). "Three Empire Awards 2017: Rogue One, Tom Hiddleston And Patrick Stewart Win Big". Empire. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  37. ^ Moore, William (17 November 2016). "Evening Standard British Film Awards - The Longlist". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  38. ^ Gil Conesa, Amanda (30 January 2017). "Lista de ganadores de los Premios Gaudí 2017". Ecartelera.
  39. ^ "Golden Tomato Awards - Best of 2016". Rotten Tomatoes. 12 January 2017.
  40. ^ Rolfe, Pamela (14 December 2016). "Juan Antonio Bayona's 'A Monster Calls' Leads Goya Award Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  41. ^ "'Moonlight' and 'Love and Friendship' Lead London Film Critics' Circle Nominations". Variety. 20 December 2016. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  42. ^ "La lista completa de ganadores de los premios Feroz 2017" (in Spanish). El Huffinton Post. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  43. ^ "2016 San Diego Film Critics Society's Award Nominations". 9 December 2016. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  44. ^ "San Diego Film Critics Society's 2016 Award Winners". 12 December 2016. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  45. ^ McNary, Dave (2 March 2017). "Saturn Awards Nominations 2017: 'Rogue One,' 'Walking Dead' Lead". Variety. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  46. ^ "2016 StLFCA Annual Award Nominations". St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association. 12 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  47. ^ "The 2016 WAFCA Awards Nominations". 3 December 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2016.

External links[edit]