Review: ‘A Monster Calls’ dials up creature comfort

Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson star in director J.A. Bayona’s fantasy drama ‘A Monster Calls.’

A Monster Calls dials up a nostalgic and superb coming-of-age journey that’ll have audiences grabbing all the hankies.

Scottish newcomer Lewis MacDougall stars as a boy under a barrage of stressful situations — including having to deal with a cryptic tree creature — in the tearjerking drama (***1/2 out of four; rated PG-13; in New York and L.A. theaters Friday, nationwide Jan. 6) directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible). The filmmaker pulls noteworthy performances out of Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver in supporting roles, while Liam Neeson lends his grumbly vocals as the wooden monster. Monster offers a cathartic study in overcoming loss and traversing the fine line between childhood and adulthood under tragic circumstances.

An embattled sort, young Conor (MacDougall) can’t catch a break in any part of his life. He’s haunted by nightmares, his school life is riddled with bullies, and at home the kid has to care for his loving mom Lizzie (Jones), a goodhearted soul dying from a terminal illness and unable to fulfill her parental duties. The situation worsens when Conor’s overbearing grandmother (Weaver) comes to live with them and help her daughter — Conor feels she’s much more concerned with…