A young boy’s nightmares seem to come true when the tree outside his home wakes up and turns into a monster who tells him three stories and demands the truth from the lad. The stories seem to be disconnected at first but become lessons that the boy has to learn. Do the stories help heal his relationship with his grandmother? Does he come to terms with his mother’s illness? The film is heartbreakingly beautiful. A must watch.
The Director J.A. Bayona takes the audience through a heartbreaking journey of emotions and upheavals in a young boy’s life. As audience you know that his mother (played beautifully by Felicity Jones) is suffering from a terminal disease, and the cruel grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) wants the best for her daughter, but the story is so beautifully woven, we wait for the truth to hit the lad (Lewis MacDougall). But do we really want to see the boy suffer the truth? Are the stories told by the tree monster (voiced brilliantly by Liam Neeson) just random? Or are they helping the boy discover himself?
The movie is based on the book by Patrick Ness and even though it is said that the books are always better, this one time when the stories that the monster tells are rendered beautifully in watercolor in the movie. But the dilemmas these stories represent are as ancient as the hills: what is right and wrong? What is sin and who is the sinner? What is faith? You have watch the watercolors come alive in order to understand how stunning simple stories can look.
An evil young and beautiful queen, an old king, a prince and a farmer’s daughter is a tale that you have heard before. But the queen isn’t evil and the love isn’t true. The apothecary’s story tests faith. And the story of the invisible man makes you weep because somewhere we all have voices we have suppressed because of different things. Bullies at the young boy’s school will make you itch to fight back. The need to scream against injustice against the boy (and you, the audience) will overwhelm you. And that is an achievement for any director.
You are so easily transported from being an audience into watching the movie from the point of view of the boy that it seems like movie magic when the lights come on. Take your time recovering. This journey has been weepy, happy, tragic, angry and all together satisfying.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)