This is a visually beautiful film, because of the use of water
color-type CGI graphics. It's
based on a children's story book, but it's definitely not all
lollipops and rainbows. In
fact, the lemonade is quite bitter at times, but that's part of the
Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is at that awkward in-between age:
too old to be considered still a kid, but too young to be
regarded as a man. Things
haven't been going so well at school for him lately: there's a bully
who seems to single him out for harrassment after class, and he brings
along a couple of thug buddies just to further enjoy the public
Conor's a quiet kid who sticks to himself.
He's very close to his Mum (Felicity Jones), who loves him
completely and unconditionally, but the problem is that she's sick.
And getting sicker. Conor
is understandably in a panic about her illness, and grasps at straws
about the latest treatment just as she does.
But they both know she continues to get worse.
Conor keeps having this recurring nightmare where he's holding
on to his Mum's hand as she's about to fall off a cliff.
But he can't pull her up and her hand starts slipping away.
And then he wakes up.
All Conor can do to cope is take refuge in his artistic talent,
which is considerable. Apparently
he inherited that from his Mum. His
Dad is mostly absent. Though
they are all English, he moved to the United States and married
someone else and has another child, so obviously his attention is
limited. But it's more
than that; his Dad (Toby
Kebbell) literally tells Conor that there's no room for him at his
house in California. The
only other family that Conor has is his Grandma (Sigourney Weaver),
but she's not exactly a bundle of cozy warmth, either.
She's humorless and controlling and emotionally distant and
isn't a big part of Conor's life.
Conor, left to his own devices to deal with his emotional
difficulties, summons a monster out of his imagination, who comes out
of the huge yew tree in the back pasture.
The monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) doesn't coddle Conor, but
pushes him to face his anger and his guilt and his angst, and to tell
people the truth, even those closest to him.
Especially those closest to him.
This isn't the first “imaginary friend” plot device ever
utlized, but it is uniquely developed.
All the performances add to the impact, including newcomer
Lewis MacDougall and the new face of Star Wars, Felicity Jones. This
movie takes seriously the complexities of grieving, which makes it not
just an entertainment venue, but even a possibility for film-therapy
usage with emotionally-bereft kids.
Now that's a movie worth making.