Starring Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougal, Liam Neeson, Geraldine Chaplin
Brooding. Unsatisfying. Skilled.
A beleaguered school-age boy (mother suffering from cancer, bully at school, distant father, emotionally cold grandmother) finds his nights being taken up by a storytelling tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson). With the help of this unlikely new friend, he learns to deal with the circumstances around him. It’s possible somewhere down the road, I’ll come back to this film and view it differently, but on first viewing I found myself as emotionally distant as the grandmother character seems to be. I enjoyed much of the individual pieces. The monster’s enigmatic stories are told in wonderfully animated sequences. Felicity Jones is suitably moving in her role as the sweet, dying mother. Liam Neeson’s voice as the sage monster is perfect. The young actor in the leading role is excellent. All of these elements work, and yet I felt the material was overly familiar, and the tone stolid where I thought a lighter touch at times could have been more impactful.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-