“Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.”
– Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
There is nothing I love more than stories… I cannot imagine the world without them. They celebrate life on the best days and comfort on the worst. As a reader, I read for adventure and magic and to know that I’m not alone. The beauty of a good story is that they can articulate a thought or a feeling that we haven’t managed to do so ourselves. Stories teach us lessons and give us a voice. Stories have always been an important part of my life and I will never forget the profound impact they have had.
I have read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness many, many times. It is a heart-wrenching book about a young boy who is about to lose his mother to terminal cancer. Every time I read it, the tears start falling further from the end. Even though I know what is coming at the turn of every page, the story still takes my breath away. Patrick Ness is my favourite writer and storyteller; there is something about his words that resonate deep within my soul. I have sobbed and laughed in equal measure and felt desire, hope, and grief. I have a tendency to reach for Ness’ books when I need them the most and rereading A Monster Calls a few weeks back couldn’t have been more perfect. I picked it up because I booked tickets to see an advanced screening of the upcoming film adaptation with the British Film Festival and wanted the book to be fresh in my memory. It also coincided with a very rough patch in my own life and yet again, proved to be exactly what I needed to make sense of it all.
I was really nervous to see the film; I can only think of one other book-to-film adaptation where I didn’t walk away from the cinema disappointed. I was worried that one of my favourite books was about to be torn apart… however, I was extremely happy to learn that Ness wrote the screenplay! Surely he would want the best version of his story on the big screen! I mentioned to Walker Books Australia that I was going to see the film and they sent me a stunning copy of the collector’s edition of the book. It contains the original story by Ness and artworks by the magnificent Jim Kay, and an array of interviews and commentaries by the cast and crew from the film. I read every single word – of the story and the extras – and headed into the film feeling slightly more optimistic.
Mum and I met at the old Balwyn Theatre and waited for the film to start. It is a visual masterpiece and it brings Ness’ story to life in ways I couldn’t imagine. It is all kinds of brilliant. The boy who plays Conor – Lewis MacDougall – is amazing; his young face cannot hide the plethora of emotion he experiences in the story. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his honesty is so very endearing. The monster is also incredible; a huge amount of work must have gone into bringing him to life… however, the visuals are what I loved the most. In the book when the monster comes walking, he tells Conor that he will tell him three stories, and in return, Conor must tell one of his own. The first two stories are told through a watercolour – like animation that is simply beautiful. The film remains faithful to the book and the parts that were added for the film only add to the story, not detract from it. I loved everything about this film and would highly recommend it. Just don’t forget to pack tissues… I don’t know how anyone could walk out without shedding a tear or two! A Monster Calls may break your heart but it will also give you hope ♥
A special thank you to Walker Books Australia for a copy of the book!