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“It begins like so many stories with a boy too old to be a kid, too young to be a man… and a nightmare.” — The Monster
This analysis of the film contains spoilers which may differ from the book.
Early into Juan Antonio Bayona’s film adaptation of the Patrick Ness children’s fantasy A Monster Calls, twelve-year-old Conor watches with dismayed confusion as Kong, in the original 1933 black and white classic King Kong, is riddled with bullets, questioning why anyone would try to kill him. As Kong clings atop the Empire State Building, he falters, ultimately letting go and falling to his inevitable death. The scene resonates a negative undercurrent within Conor, mirroring his own nightmare where, upon the cemetery grounds opening up, he’s left clinging to his mother’s hand, eventually watching in horror as he’s unable to hold on.
Prior to this moment, the scene begins as Conor’s mother, simply known as “Mum” here on out, wishes to surprise him with his grandfather’s old film projector. “I wish you could have known him,” she says, adding “even Grandma softened up around him.” This bit of dialogue succinctly sets up the strenuous relationship between Conor and his grandmother but also illuminates the relationship between Mum and her father whose spirit hovers over the story in more ways than one; although his fate is never addressed, bits and pieces of backstory are threaded throughout, including photos of Liam Neeson who voices the titular character with Conor’s young Mum, suggesting the film’s plotline is one that this family, particularly Mum herself, has had to endure before.
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