This week saw the Blu-ray and DVD release of the critically-acclaimed drama A Monster Calls, which first debuted at last year’s Toronto and London Film Festivals.
The film, directed by J.A. Bayona, the filmmaker behind The Impossible and who is currently filming Jurassic World 2, is a rich and visual delight but also a touching and profound story of a family rip apart by grief. Newcomer Lewis MacDougall stars as the lead character Connor, who is trying to come to terms with his sick mother Lizzie (Felicity Jones), who is suffering from cancer. His grandmother (played by Sigourney Weaver) arrives to take care of him but it’s only through the guidance of a magical monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) that helps him come to terms with what is happening around him.
Recently, we sat down with stars Jones and MacDougall about the film, what it was like making it and how they became friends while portraying mother and son.
Before filming began, the two stars went out on a few days trips together to become accustomed to each other not just as actors but as friends. MacDougall says the experience helped set them up for the film, saying:
“They are so close to each other so we had to create that sense of being comfortable with each other, so we went to the zoo before shooting and we had a fun day out getting to know each other and we also went to a theme park as well and went on the rollercoasters!”
Jones, who enjoyed a phenomenal 2016 thanks to this film and the mega-hit that was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, says that it was the characters friendship over being just a parent and child scenario that was what drew her to the story:
“I don’t know if it’s maternal but we found playing Lizzie and Connor as friends, they are friends. There’s a closeness in age and Lizzie is a single parent and sometimes they’re like brother and sister so their relationship is constantly changing. It didn’t feel right to play a sort of authoritarian parent figure – they were much, much closer than that.”
Bayona is slowly becoming one of Hollywood’s most in-denamd directors and for the stars it was obviously from the very beginning. MacDougall says that it was the helmer’s attention to detail that impressed him, saying:
“He’s great – he’s also very in touch with the art, the drawing aspect of the film so he would often do drawing on set and he was very close with the film and with him being like that was very helpful”
While some of the subject matters featured in the film are hard-hitting to a certain degree, the script as written by Patrick Ness (who also help create the book from which the film is based) handles everything beautifully and the film’s honesty is what Jones believes makes the film soar, saying:
“We hope so. The film is so honest – it’s saying life doesn’t work out how you’d expect and awful things can happen and how do you recover from that and hopefully people get some kind of catharsis and understanding through watching it.”
A Monster Calls is available now on Digital Download, Blu-ray and DVD. Click here to win a copy in our competitions section.