STORIES ARE WILD CREATURES.
Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with his mother’s terminal illness and a bully at school when late one night he has an encounter with a ”monster”, a giant yew tree that has three stories to tell him. Patrick Ness brings his children’s book (and Jim Kay’s illustrations) vividly to life in collaboration with an impressive filmmaker who makes it impossible for us not to shed tears. But this isn’t a simpleminded tearjerker; its complex and for children totally relevant and relatable message about the nature of grief is illustrated in smart, symbolic ways where animation and fantasy blend into real life. Young MacDougall is perfectly cast as the boy who’s struggling with himself.
2016-Spain-Britain-U.S. Part Animated. 108 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Belén Atienza. Directed by J.A. Bayona. Screenplay, Novel: Patrick Ness. Cast: Lewis MacDougall (Conor O’Malley), Sigourney Weaver (Grandmother), Felicity Jones (Lizzie O’Malley), Toby Kebbell, James Melville, Lily-Rose Aslandogdu… Geraldine Chaplin. Voice of Liam Neeson.
Trivia: The novel was originally started by Siobhan Dowd, but she passed away before finishing it. Tom Holland served as a stand-in as the Monster during the making of the film.
Last word: “I have lots of friends who are illustrators, and we talk a lot about how what you don’t see is more important than what you can see in a painting. In that sense, I didn’t want to see the faces of the characters in the animated stories. For me, they’re more ideas than characters, so I thought, ‘I don’t want to see actors playing them.’ I realized the best way to do that was with drawings. So then it made perfect sense that Conor himself drew the characters. That created an immediate connection to me, because I was obsessed with drawing when I was a kid. And then I started to feel the whole story in an even more personal way.” (Bayona, The Verge)
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