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A monster calls

A monster calls

A monster calls

27 July 2017

The dark themes of A Monster Calls bring to light the power of telling ourselves the truth.

By Mark Hadley

A Monster Calls is one of those stories, book or film, that deserves a place on the shelf in every family concerned with teaching children the importance of truth and belief.

Based on the award-winning novel by Patrick Ness, and scripted by the author himself, it is a dark tale about the worst days of a young boy’s life, and the best realisations that accompany them.

Conor is a 13-year-old English boy who is struggling to care for his ailing mother. Some time in the past Conor’s father has left to begin a new family in the United States and our hero’s mum is now dying of cancer.

Conor’s life is a battle to assert normality in a situation no child should be asked to bear alone, and his isolation at school and the unwanted attention of bullies, bring him to breaking point.

One night, at 12.07am, Conor hears a disturbing ruckus from the graveyard near his home. In a moment, a terrifying treelike monster is at his window.

The creature tells Conor the boy has summoned it. The monster will tell him three true stories and, when it is done, Conor must deliver a true story of his own.

The monster has all the characteristics of a child’s nightmare. Each of its three stories begins as a simple fairytale, but soon darker forces emerge. All of this might leave you wondering how suitable this film is for its high school market?

Yet what Conor learns is that the scariest thing a boy will ever have to confront is the darkness in his own heart. During one of his stories, the monster teaches Conor about the weakness of lightly held beliefs.

There was a parson who preached vehemently against a healer whose character and methods displeased him – until the priest’s own daughters fell desperately ill. Then the parson told the healer he would preach sermons in his favour and deliver parishioners to his door, if only he would save his children.

The monster tells Conor the parson proved to be a man of faith without faith, to be so ready to change his belief for whatever suited his circumstances. His belief was so weak, it could never save him or his family.

It’s a lesson that should remind the viewer that God won’t be mocked by insincere professions. However, the most powerful lesson comes towards the end of the film, when the monster finally demands payment, drawing from Conor his own story.

It turns out to be a confession of how angry and helpless the boy feels in the face of his mother’s illness, and how desperately he wants their joint suffering to end. The monster drags the admission from Conor in a way that seems cruel, but is actually the necessary lancing of a boil on the boy’s soul.

What he needed to learn most of all was that there can be no real healing so long as we insist on feeding ourselves lies.

A Monster Calls is a sad but beautifully crafted tale that arrives at a satisfying conclusion.

It reminds us of the harm we do ourselves when we fail to hold on to the truth, and the healing that comes from being honest with others and, most of all, ourselves.

It will remind its audience of the importance of truth, and help pave the way in a child’s heart for accepting and holding fast to the greatest truths of all – those that speak of their place in God’s creation.

And, borrowing the words of Jesus, then they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free.

A Monster Calls is released today and is Rated M.


  1. Lauren Martin
    Lauren Martin

    I saw this last night. It is brilliant. Bring your tissues!

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