A monster calls

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Not recommended under 13, parental guidance to 15 (intense themes, disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A monster calls
  • a review of A monster calls completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 27 July 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to intense themes and disturbing scenes
Children 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes
Children over the age of 15 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: A monster calls
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and violence, some scenes may scare children
Length: 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The film opens with twelve-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) fast asleep in bed. The young boy is having an apparently recurring nightmare in which he tries in vain to save his mother from falling.  

We learn that Conor lives with his terminally ill mother (Felicity Jones) while his overbearing grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) visits regularly. His sad life continues at school, where he is regularly bullied.

Things change one night when a large tree near the house transforms into a monster (voice of Liam Neeson) which comes to visit Conor.  The monster tells Conor that he will return to tell him three stories,  after which the boy must tell the monster a fourth story about the truth that he is hiding - the truth behind his nightmares. As the film unfolds the monster tells three stories which touch upon Conor’s problems. The film’s climax is reached when Conor tells his own story, enabling him to finally confront his own fears and failings.   


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Terminal illness; death of a parent; grief; bullying

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains a variety of violent scenes, some in animated footage but others involving the main characters. Examples include:

  • The film contains several scenes depicting schoolyard bullying. Conor is pushed and falls, with his face slamming into the ground. He is also kicked, has his hand stamped on and his face slapped. He is constantly taunted. Eventually he retaliates, repeatedly punching his tormentor. Later we hear that Conor’s attack had put the boy in hospital.    
  • There is footage of the black and white King Kong film with King Kong standing on top of the Empire State building being attacked by planes firing machineguns. The creature falls from the building.         
  • The film contains a number of surreal cartoons depicting bloody violent acts, some of which involve fantasy creatures.
  • Conor smashes furniture and ornaments. His grandmother walks in and sees the destruction, then pushes over a cabinet in anger and walks out of the room.  Later the boy hears his grandmother crying.
  • In one scene the monster rampages through a school cafeteria sending tables and chairs flying and terrifying students.
  • The monster shouts at a Conor, ordering him to tell the truth. The boy refuses, saying that the truth would kill him and the monster tells the boy that not telling the truth will also kill him.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged under five, including the following:

  • Conor’s recurring nightmare is very scary.  An old church crumbles, a giant sinkhole opens up and he is unable to save his mother who falls into it.
  • A giant yew tree transforms into a monster, its roots breaking out of the ground and transforming into legs. Its eyes are like burning coals with yellow slits for pupils. The arrival of the monster is preceded by strange occurrences including violent windstorms. Some scenes depict the monster inflicting destruction such as ripping a section of a house from its foundations and hurling it through the air, or crushing train lines as it walks. In one scene tree roots grow out of the monster’s head and fingers, and wrap themselves around Conor’s face and body.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Conor finally confesses that he secretly wanted his mother to die because he couldn’t stand seeing her suffer and wanted it over with.  He says that he deserves to be punished for wanting his mother to die. 
  • A distressing scene shows Conor’s dying mother sitting on a bed, emaciated and with a baldhead. Later we see Conor standing crying next to his mother’s bed. Conor climbs into bed with her and she dies while being held by him. 


Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes, particularly the bullying of Conor and the death of his mother.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Product placement

None noted.

Sexual references

References in cartoon footage to lovers sleeping together under a tree

Nudity and sexual activity

  • There is a surreal cartoon image of a man and woman kissing and, in a later scene, a naked man kneeling next to a sleeping woman.
  • In one scene Conor’s mother is helped to undress and her naked, bruised and emaciated back is exposed.
  • We see a woman wearing a low-cut top that reveals some cleavage. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:.

  • When Conor’s mother has a seizure she is given a drug that calms her.
  • A man drinks wine at a restaurant.
  • A bully tauntingly suggests that Conor is drunk

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • arseholes; damn it; by God

In a nutshell

A monster calls is a fantasy drama targeting teens and adults. It is an intensely emotional story of loss and grief, featuring an angry and confused 12 year-old boy whose mother has a terminal illness. Due to the film’s intense themes and disturbing scenes it is not recommended for children under 13 and some slightly older children may need parental guidance.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • people are complicated, capable of being both good and bad
  • people can be scared by what they don’t understand
  • keeping secrets can result in emotional trauma, self-recrimination and self-harm. 

Parents may wish to discuss why Conor felt guilty and found it so difficult to discuss his feeling about his dying mother, and why he felt it necessary to be punished for his feelings.