Twelve-year-old Conor O'Malley must face his mother's terminal cancer, his strict grandmother, his estranged father, and his school bully, Harry. One night at 12:07 a.m., Conor is visited by the tree-like Monster, who tells Conor it has come to tell him three true stories, after which Conor must tell the Monster his own story: the truth behind his nightmare, which Conor refuses to do.First story
An old king who has lost his entire family (his sons being killed in fierce battles and his wife committing suicide because of this), save a young grandson, remarries a beautiful young woman. He dies before the prince comes of age, and many believe the queen poisoned the king. Not wanting to hand the kingdom over to the prince in a year, she plots to marry the prince and remain queen. The prince runs away with a farm girl he loves. They stop and sleep under a yew tree (the Monster), but in the morning he finds the young woman murdered. The prince tells the villagers that the queen, a witch, must have done it, and they rally to overthrow her. Before the commoners can reach the queen, the Monster carries her away to a far-off land where she lives out the rest of her life in peace. Though she was indeed a witch, she did not kill the farm girl or the king, who actually died of old age. The prince had murdered the farm girl himself in order to inspire his people to back him into overthrowing the queen. After the queen was taken to safety by the Monster, the prince continued to rule the kingdom in the grandfather's place.Second story
An apothecary follows old traditions and beliefs, using herbs and brews to cure ailments. His business becomes less popular as a local parson tells his congregation not to accept the apothecary's old ways. When the parson's two daughters become sick, the parson asks the apothecary to save their lives after all other resources are exhausted. When the apothecary asks why he should help a man who has turned people away from his skills and denied him the yew tree, his best source of healing ingredients, the parson promises to give him the tree and deliver the parishioners to him as customers. Yet the apothecary says that he cannot help, and the girls die. The Monster awakens from the yew tree to destroy the parson's house and raze it to the ground as punishment.
While the apothecary was a greedy man, he was a healer and would have saved lives, including the girls', if the parson had allowed him his way of life. The parson was a man of belief, but was willing to discard his beliefs when they were in the way. The healing traditions followed by the apothecary require belief in order to work; without the parson's, the apothecary was unable to treat the two girls. Belief is half the cure.Third story
A man was invisible because no one ever saw him. Tired of this, he summoned the Monster to ensure people would notice him. After people do notice him however, the man finds himself more alone than before.Fourth story
Conor must confront his nightmare to tell the fourth story. His mother has been pulled to the edge of a cliff by a sudden collapse of the ground, and Conor must hold her hand to save her from falling. Eventually, his grip fails and his mother falls. The Monster forces Conor to confess the truth: Conor loosened his grip on purpose. While he could have held on longer, he let go in order to stop the pain of having to hold on.
Through the Monster, Conor ultimately understands that although he does not want his mother to die, it is something he must accept, and he must not feel guilty for wanting it to be over so he does not have to feel pain anymore. After this, Conor returns, with the Monster by his side, to comfort his mother one last time, and she dies at 12:07. He returns home with his grandmother, with whom he has reached an understanding, and she gives Conor the room that used to be his mother's. In the room, he finds his mother's old art book, which depicts the stories that were told to him by the Monster, and a drawing of his mother as a child with the Monster.Lewis MacDougall as Conor O'Malley
Max Golds as 5-year-old Conor
Sigourney Weaver as Mrs. Clayton, Conor's strict grandmother who has a tense relationship with him.
Felicity Jones as Elizabeth "Lizzie" Clayton, Conor's mother who is diagnosed with an unspecified terminal illness.
Toby Kebbell as Liam O'Malley, Conor's father who is divorced from Lizzie and now lives in the United States.
Liam Neeson as the "Monster" (voice and motion capture), a giant humanoid yew tree. Tom Holland, who worked with Bayona on The Impossible, served as the stand-in for the Monster during one day of production.Neeson also appears uncredited in a photograph as Conor's grandfather.
James Melville as Harry, a school bully who frequently targets Conor.
Geraldine Chaplin as the head teacher of Conor's school.
Focus Features bought the rights to the book in March 2014. Patrick Ness, the book's author, served as the film's screenwriter, with J. A. Bayona hired as director. On April 23, 2014, Felicity Jones joined the film to play the boy's mother. On May 8, Liam Neeson was cast to voice the Monster, and on August 18, Sigourney Weaver joined to play the boy's grandmother. On August 19, Toby Kebbell was also cast in the film. On September 3, author Ness tweeted that Lewis MacDougall had been set for the lead role in the film. On September 30, Geraldine Chaplin joined the cast.
Principal photography began on September 30, 2014, in Spain and Britain. On October 9, the filming began on location in Preston, Lancashire, Rivington Pike (Chorley/Horwich), Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Marsden Denshaw.
Liam Neeson, who voices the titular tree creature, was not on set throughout the shooting process, and completed his motion-capture performance during a two-week period beforehand, with MacDougall in the room.
Originally scheduled for an October 2016 release, the film was delayed in order to avoid competition from Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Boo! A Madea Halloween, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Keeping Up with the Joneses. It was re-scheduled for a limited roll out on December 23, 2016, followed by a wide release on January 6, 2017. The film was released in the United Kingdom on January 1, 2017, by Entertainment One and Lionsgate, and in India on January 6, 2017, by B4U Relativity.
A Monster Calls grossed $3.7 million in the United States and Canada and $42.8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $46.6 million, against a production budget of $43 million.
In North America, the film had its wide release alongside the opening of Underworld: Blood Wars and the wide expansions of Hidden Figures and Lion, and was initially expected to gross around $10 million from 1,523 theaters over the weekend. However, after making just $659,000 on its first day, weekend projections were lowered to $2 million, which it ended up grossing, finishing 13th at the box office. In its second weekend of wide release it grossed $537,262 (a drop of 74.2%) and in its third week made just $19,080 (a drop of 96.4%) after being pulled from all but 42 theaters, one of the biggest third week theater drops in history.
The aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 88% based on 232 reviews, and an average rating of 7.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A Monster Calls deftly balances dark themes and fantastical elements to deliver an engrossing and uncommonly moving entry in the crowded coming-of-age genre". At Metacritic, the film has an average score of 76 out of 100 based on 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.