A Monster Calls (film)

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A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJ. A. Bayona
Produced by
  • Belén Atienza
  • Mitch Horwits
  • Jonathan King
Screenplay byPatrick Ness
Based onA Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
from an idea by Siobhan Dowd
Music byFernando Velázquez
CinematographyÓscar Faura
Edited by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures (Spain)
Entertainment One Films (United Kingdom)
Focus Features (United States)
Release date
  • 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[1]
  • Spain[2]
  • United Kingdom[2]
  • United States
Budget$43 million[3]
Box office$47.3 million[4]

A Monster Calls is a 2016 dark fantasy drama film directed by J. A. Bayona and written by Patrick Ness, based on his 2011 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd. The film stars Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, and Liam Neeson, and tells the story of Conor (MacDougall), a child whose mother (Jones) is terminally ill; one night, he is visited by a monster in the form of a giant anthropomorphic yew tree (Neeson), who states that he will come back and tell Conor three stories. The film is an international co-production between Spain, United Kingdom and the United States.[2]

A Monster Calls premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2016. It was then released in Spain on 7 October 2016, and in the United Kingdom on 1 January 2017. In the United States, the film began a limited release on 23 December 2016, followed by a wide release on 6 January 2017. It received positive reviews, being praised for its themes, directing, performances and visual effects, but underperformed at the box office, grossing $47 million worldwide on a budget of $43 million.[4]


12-year-old Conor O'Malley has a close bond with his seriously ill mother, and maintains the household during her regular chemotherapy treatments at the hospital. Conor's grandmother often visits, and suggests that Conor live with her in the event of his mother's death. Conor is reluctant to take up this offer due to her cold personality. At school, he 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, where someone else is in danger of plummeting and he tries to hold onto them. Conor vents his emotions by drawing, a talent inherited from his mother. One night, exactly seven minutes past midnight, he sees the large yew tree next to the church transform into a gnarled Monster that approaches his home. The Monster says that it will tell Conor three stories during their next meetings, after which Conor must tell the Monster a fourth tale in return.

In the Monster's first story, a prince escapes from his stepmother, the supposedly-evil elderly queen, but then kills his sleeping bride under a yew tree and makes the queen the scapegoat so that his people can drive her away and make him king. As Conor's mother worsens, Conor moves in with his grandmother. After he angrily damages her valuable clock, the Monster appears and tells the second story: a hard-hearted parson forbids an apothecary from extracting medicine from an old yew tree, only to rescind this measure when his own children become ill. However, the apothecary cannot help him, and the Monster begins to destroy the parson's house as punishment. Conor enthusiastically joins in on the destruction, but comes to find that he has trashed his grandmother's living room instead. His grandmother, while shocked and bitter, does not punish Conor.

The doctors turn to a final treatment involving yew wood. Conor implores the Monster to heal his mother, only for the Monster to dismiss the matter as outside of his responsibility. At school, Harry proclaims that he will no longer bother Conor because he "no longer sees [him]". The Monster tells a story of an invisible man who did not want to be so. With the Monster's support, Conor angrily attacks Harry, hospitalizing him. To his astonishment, the headmistress refrains from punishing him as she comprehends his current home situation. When it becomes clear that his mother will die, Conor runs to the yew tree, where the Monster forces him to relive his nightmare, in which his mother dangles for her life. Conor finally tells his own tale, admitting that he had long suspected his mother would not survive and secretly hoped that she would die soon, which fills him with guilt. The Monster tells him that he did not truly want his mother to die, but simply to end his own suffering.

Conor's grandmother finds him asleep under the yew tree and drives him to the hospital, during which Conor reconciles with her. At the hospital, Conor embraces his mother one last time and as she is passing she glances at the Monster. She dies at seven minutes past midnight. Conor returns to his grandmother's house, where his mother's old room is refurbished for him. In the room, he finds his mother's old art book, which depicts the stories that were told to him by the Monster, and a drawing of his mother as a child with the Monster, realizing he was always good.


  • Lewis MacDougall as Conor O'Malley
    • Max Golds as 5-year-old Conor
  • Liam Neeson as the "Monster" (voice and motion capture), a giant humanoid yew tree.
    • Neeson also appears uncredited in a photograph as Connor's grandfather.
    • Tom Holland served as the stand-in for the Monster during one week of production.[5][6]
  • Sigourney Weaver as Mrs. Clayton (credited as "Grandma"), Conor’s strict grandmother who has a tense relationship with him.
  • Felicity Jones as Elisabeth "Lizzie" Clayton (credited as "Mom"), Conor’s mother who is diagnosed with 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.
  • James Melville as Harry, a school bully who frequently targets Conor.
  • Geraldine Chaplin as the head teacher of Conor’s school.


Focus Features bought the rights to the book in March 2014.[7] Patrick Ness, the book's author, served as the film's screenwriter, with J. A. Bayona hired as director.[8] On 23 April 2014, Felicity Jones joined the film to play the boy's mother.[9] On 8 May, Liam Neeson was cast to voice the Monster,[10] and on 18 August, Sigourney Weaver joined to play the boy's grandmother.[11] On August 19, Toby Kebbell was also cast in the film.[12] On 3 September, author Ness tweeted that Lewis MacDougall had been set for one of the lead roles as the boy in the film.[13] On 30 September, Geraldine Chaplin joined the cast.[14]


Principal photography began on 30 September 2014,[15] in Spain and Britain.[14][16] On 9 October, the filming began on location in Preston, Lancashire, Rivington Pike (Chorley/Horwich), Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Marsden, West Yorkshire.[17]

Liam Neeson, who voices the titular tree creature, was not on set throughout the shooting process, and completed his motion-capture performance during a two-week period beforehand, with MacDougall in the room.[18] Actor Tom Holland, who worked with Bayona on The Impossible, worked on set as The Monster on a week when Neeson was absent.[5][6]


Originally scheduled for an October 2016 release,[19][20] the film was delayed in order to avoid competition from Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Boo! A Madea Halloween, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Keeping Up with the Joneses.[citation needed] It was rescheduled for a limited roll out on 23 December 2016, followed by a wide release on 6 January 2017.[21] The film was released in the United Kingdom on 1 January 2017, by Entertainment One and Lionsgate,[22] and in India on 6 January 2017, by B4U Relativity.[23]


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.[4]

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.[24] 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.[25] In its second weekend of wide release it grossed $537,262 (a drop of 74.2%) and in its third week 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.[26][27]

Critical response[edit]

The aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 86% based on 259 reviews, and an average rating of 7.58/10. The site's critical 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."[28] At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[29] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[30]


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 [31]
Best Intergenerational Film A Monster Calls Nominated
Camerimage 19 November 2016 Golden Frog Award for Best Cinematography Óscar Faura Nominated [32]
Critics' Choice Awards 11 December 2016 Best Young Performer Lewis MacDougall Nominated [33]
Best Visual Effects A Monster Calls Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society 19 December 2016 Best Supporting Actress Felicity Jones Nominated [34]
Empire Awards 19 March 2017 Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy A Monster Calls Won [35]
Best Male Newcomer Lewis MacDougall Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards 8 December 2016 Breakthrough of the Year Lewis MacDougall Nominated [36]
Gaudí Awards 29 January 2017 Best Film A Monster Calls Won [37]
Best Non-Catalan Language Film A Monster Calls Won
Best Director J. A. Bayona Won
Best Production Director Sandra Hermida Won
Best Art Direction Eugenio Caballero Won
Best Film Editing Jaume Martí and Bernat Vilaplana Won
Best Cinematography Óscar Faura Won
Best Art Direction Eugenio Caballero Won
Best Sound Peter Glossop, Marc Orts and Oriol Tarragó Won
Best Special Effects Felix Bergés and Pau Costa Won
Golden Tomato Awards 12 January 2017 Best British Movie 2016 A Monster Calls 2nd Place [38]
Best Kids/Family Movie 2016 A Monster Calls 3rd Place
Goya Awards 4 February 2017 Best Film A Monster Calls Nominated [39]
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 [40]
Premios Feroz 23 January 2017 Best Drama Film A Monster Calls Nominated [41]
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 [42][43]
Saturn Awards 28 June 2017 Best Fantasy Film A Monster Calls Nominated [44]
Best Performance by a Younger Actor Lewis MacDougall Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association December 18, 2016 Best Visual Effects A Monster Calls Nominated [45]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 5, 2016 Best Youth Performance Lewis MacDougall Nominated [46]
Best Adapted Screenplay Patrick Ness Nominated
Best Voice Performance Liam Neeson Won
Best Motion Capture Performance Nominated


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

External links[edit]