Have you ever looked at a movie, seen all the crazy hype over it and refused to see it? Thinking that a production could never live up to the expectations? I know I have, more than once in my life. This film has been crazily pushed, talking about awards season and so on. However I can honestly say, whatever hype you have seen for this movie, was not enough! This lives up to everything and still gives even more than you could think possible.
We meet Coner, a 12-year-old boy going through a very tough time in his life. Looking after a sickly mother, taking care of himself and the home as much as possible. At first you think badly of the mother until you realize that she is suffering from a long term fatal illness. Coner is being bullied in school, beaten up every single day. He isn’t performing well in school either, the teachers often asking if he needs to talk. He just keeps doodling little pictures and monsters all over his school books, saying he is fine.
The old yew tree behind his home is almost an obsession to him, his mother telling him stories of it in his youth. It comes to life, his room shaking distracting him from his drawings. The yew monster grabs him from his room, telling him that he will tell the boy three stories and on the fourth visit, the boy must tell him a fourth. His truth, the real story behind all of this.
The truth is about the nightmares he has. The ground under the church (behind his home) giving away. His mother falling into the abyss, he tries to save her. He is never strong enough, he always lets her fall. Waking up in terror afterwards. He can’t stop thinking about it, drawing it, trying to understand the dream.
The storyline progresses with sections of his life, cut with meeting the monster and the monster’s stories. With him demanding that the monster heal his mother, or help him get rid of his grand mother whom he doesn’t get on with. He thinks she is trying to take over, to force him to live with her. He hates his father for living in LA with a new wife and his half sister. A father who is always absent, and has little time for him as well as no where for him to live in their LA home.
This film is truly deep and insightful. Showing you love, loss, change, grief and guilt from the eyes and mind of a 12 year old. Taking you through how a child comes up with coping methods. How easy it is for the adults around him to misunderstand him, leaving Coner trying to deal with all of this alone. Even when at one point he ends up smashing up his Grand mother’s front room.
Since The Hunger Games released, the young adult market has grown far more adult. Realising that young people are looking for answers online or in fan fictions for things that just are not covered in every day media. Bringing LGBTQ* problems, love, loss, depression, among other deep meaningful matters. Doing so in a way that a young mind can understand and find fully accessible without having to ask an adult presence for guidance. Masterfully spun here around a fantasy universe with real and imagined monsters blending in a rich setting. Leave me eager to see if the books they are based on are so good.
I hope that parents put this on their children’s watch list as much as possible, to help bring these matters to light even further. Helping them devolve the skills they will need in adult life.
Fantastic movie: 8/10
Sarah Beth James