‘There was once an invisible man, who had grown tired of being unseen.’
Sometimes the stars of the simplest of fairytales are not good versus evil; sometimes, the stories merely ask us to ask ourselves questions about what makes a person good, and what makes a person bad. The film adaptation of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls comes to cinemas on January 1st 2017, and me and Himself were invited along to a special advanced screening of the film, with a following Q&A with Ness hosted by Eason’s David O’Callaghan.
A Monster Calls, based on an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, is an allegorical story about love, loss, and examining the essence of what makes us human. Directed by J.A. Bayona, the director behind The Impossible, the screenplay was written by Ness himself, bringing the story to life in the most delicate and considered of manners one could only hope to expect of A Monster Calls, given the themes that heavily feature within. Starring Lewis MacDougall, A Monster Calls tells the story of a 12 year old boy named Conor whose mother, played by Felicity Jones, is terminally ill. He summons The Monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, to help him as he tries to navigate new challenges brought about by having to accept how ill his mother has become and by moving in with his grandmother, played by Sigourney Weaver. We were delighted to be invited to a special screening at Lighthouse Cinema on 7th November made possible by teams at Easons, Walker Books and eOne Entertainment.
We can honestly say that there have been few times we’ve experienced being in an audience while every single person broke down in tears. We can also honestly say that A Monster Calls is a cinematically beautiful, endlessly heartbreaking creation that is guaranteed to be one of the best films of 2017. MacDougall captures the essence of his character in a way that is rarely seen in someone so young, and the stellar cast, dedicated to the end to portraying the devastating effects of terminal illness, were an incredible asset in one of the best adaptations we’ve seen to date.
Once the lights went up and the audience had a moment to collect ourselves, Ness sat down with David O’Callaghan to answer questions and offer pearls of wisdom about the screenwriting process and writing in general as well as helping to allay fears audience members had about film adaptations. ‘The original exists, it doesn’t erase,’ he said of adaptations, indicating that a book, once written, is essentially immortal and nothing made from it changes the fact of the book. On writing, Ness recalled a saying he often tried to remind himself of, which was that ‘real writers don’t write, they write anyway’. In the context of writing a story, particularly one such as A Monster Calls which was presented to him as an idea by Walker Books after the passing of Siobhan Dowd, writing becomes a task in which a writer must perform regardless of the circumstances, which we felt was great advice for any writer to be reminded of. Speaking on MacDougall, Ness also noted how brilliant the 12 year old actor was on screen, explaining that they had auditioned many boys for the role, but it was MacDougall they kept coming back to as he was able to capture Conor’s raw emotion necessary for bringing the character to life.