A Monster Calls

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Uncompromisingly dark melodrama about an adolescent British boy (Lewis MacDougall) struggling to cope with a variety of problems, the most dramatic being his mother's (Felicity Jones) impending death from cancer. Coming to his "rescue" is a benevolent giant (voice of Liam Neeson) formed from the bark and roots of the local graveyard's ancient yew tree — and with a voice as deep as a coal mine. His new companion's centuries of observing human behavior and ability to dispense slightly off-kilter fables are supposed to bring the lad gruff instruction, if not exactly comfort. Though it's based on Patrick Ness' award-winning 2011 children's novel, and scripted by Ness himself, director J.A. Bayona's adaptation is not a film for kids. Even many adults will find its mawkish treatment of death and its supply of blithe "answers" to life's struggles difficult to handle. Probably acceptable for mature teens.

Watch out for: Some physical violence, several discussions of death, intense emotional scenes.

Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG-13

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