In J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls, the director mixes the hyper-reality of the agonizing struggles of a young boy named Conor O’Malley with a vibrant fantasy world involving a titanic tree monster. Like in Bayona’s previous feature El Orfanato (The Orphanage), reality and fantasy are blended together in fascinating ways, until it is not quite clear precisely what we are looking at. Though certainly a daunting task, Bayona and his performers manage to tell an engaging coming-of-age story about grief, coping, and the power of storytelling.
It is a tricky thing to tell a good story when practically every audience member knows the ending. It is trickier still when you pack your story with abject fan service, telegraphed plot choices lacking any inspiration, and under-developed characters delivering wooden dialogue. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is guilty of all these failings and many more. It is not a complete disaster, though it coasts off the strength of an exciting third act and a near-fatal dose of nostalgia. As a result, though the initial hoopla will be to declare Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as an utter triumph, extra consideration of the film (perhaps with your gender-neuter fanperson beer goggles off) will reveal its many disappointments.