Nightmares. School bullies. Dying mom. Overbearing
grandmom. And a dad who cares but has another family that gets preference.
There’s too much baggage in schoolboy Connor’s troubled young life.
But there’s also vivid imagination and artistic
creativity that let him step into a world of his own. Connor may be bullied but
he’s brave too, and protective of his terminally ill mother. Watch how he tells
off the scary tree monster to stay away from his mother. But the monster
becomes a welcome companion who tells him stories that finally help Connor sort
out all his rocky relationships. And most important of all, to face the
inevitable and let go.
It’s heartrending to watch a schoolboy cope with his
mother slipping away and the angst that manifests itself against everybody
around, especially his grandmom. It doesn’t matter whether the monster is his
own mind’s creation or planted there by his mother with whom he’s had close and
cosy moments. What’s important is that the midnight encounters with the monster
nudge him into spelling out the truth and facing it squarely. And the
turn-around is gradual, like maturing fine wine.
Lewis MacDougall playing Connor with Liam Neeson
voicing for the monster makes a cute partnership. And Sigourney Weaver who
seems witchy at first graduates to becoming Connor’s emotional anchor as his
But I have a problem with the film. There’s a line at
the beginning where Connor is described as too old to be a kid and too young to
be a man. Now that’s the kind of issue I have. The premise may be cute but who
did director Juan Antonio Bayona make the film for? Adults are too grownup to
learn from monsters that spew philosophy. And kids will be too scared of the
tree monster to pick up anything from him.
For a differently handled coming-of-age experience
that however doesn’t cater to a clear audience, A
Calls gets a 2.5* rating.
Bharathi S Pradhan
Columnist, Critic & Author