The Advice You Didn’t Want To Hear From An Agent & How It Can Change Everything…

For the past three months, I haven’t given my little drawer in the internet much attention. It’s grown dusty and well that smell is not going to take care of itself, so I feel I should explain my obvious neglect. I have written a new book. For those of you who’ve read my previous writing posts, particularly the one about my trip to the London Book Fair ( So my Date With An Agent at the London Book Fair 2017 went like this…) you’ll know that I’ve been hitting a regular brick wall with my first novel (more to come on that), but suffice to say the most frequent advice agents have given me, is to write something else.

When I eventually stopped hyperventilating, I did just that, but not entirely of my own volition. The decision was made for me, by a detective I had encountered only in passing. Let me explain. I’d had the idea for a supernatural crime thriller two years ago. Then in February 2016, I wrote a chapter and left it to one side. I just wasn’t feeling it. It was like putting a dish into a cold oven – it was never going to cook and so I took it out and put it back in the freezer, in the hope it would last until its sell by date.

When I went to London, I shook the icicles off it, in case I was asked what ideas I might have for other stories. I had no plan to write it. I was busy writing the sequel to my first novel. I was sticking to my guns and my vampires – digging my heels in – that my book deserved to find its audience outside of market trends. I met a fellow writer friend for coffee, filled her in on my semi-disastrous London trip and told her my pitch. She liked it a lot and from the moment I left her, the notion started to thaw and with it came a charging horde of ideas.

I didn’t want them. I was driving home, blaring the car radio in an attempt to distract my brain. They couldn’t come now. The first book had taken me years to write and I was knee deep already in another. But they wouldn’t be ignored. By the time I got home, I knew all sorts of random things about my detective – my very own detective – and I knew I had to do something. I could hear him in my head – the way he spoke, his American accent. I could hear the pain and regret. He was prodding me from the inside, forcing me to listen, happy to drive me insane if I didn’t let him speak.

So I set myself a goal, beginning the next morning:

First draft – 1,000 words a day, seven days a week = complete in 3 months

I started it on April 1st and finished it July 1st. 80,542 words of a first draft. I had given the Scrivener app a whirl (thank you Bestseller Experiment!) and it proved to be a great tool. Goals work for me and Scrivener allowed me to track progress as I worked towards 80k words and also set a daily goal. To see the bar fill up each day gave me a daily sense of achievement and soon the progress bar on my novel was half way across. It’s amazing if you’re writing every day, how quickly that will happen.

Manuscript

I didn’t know if I could write a modern supernatural mystery – I have lots of procedural detail to add and sculpting to do from here – but I think the story is pretty solid and I’m completely taken with my new cast of characters. My detective is going to be with me a long time.

While ‘write something else’ was the last thing I wanted to hear in London, it may have been the best advice I’ve ever received. Will I find success with this one? It’s anyone’s guess, it’s early days, but I know that I can write faster now and better on the first draft than I had before. So what happens next? Well it goes to rest in a darkened room for at least a month, maybe two. I already know most of the things that need tweaking in terms of plot and I’m looking forward to diving back in but I need a little distance from it so I can do it properly.

What’s surprised me though, is how it has reinvigorated my intentions for my first book. I wondered whether it would be the one I consign to the bottom drawer – the doomed first novel – but that’s not the case. Only last night, my head was spinning with ideas for the rest of my partially written sequel, so I shall go back to that. And the first? Well lets just say I have a few campfires lit in various outposts. I will share news when I can.

Knowing that I have more than one book in me is amazing and empowering. Could I write a book every year? I certainly like to think I could. By this time next year I could have three books ready to be picked up or indeed published myself.

So fellow writers, hold onto your ideas. They will revisit you when you least expect them and when they demand your attention, listen to them for they could just be the one you’ve been waiting for.

Review: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (Spoiler free)

Jacob Batalon;Photographer select;Tom Holland

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by: Jon Watts
Cert: 12A Running Time: 133 minutes
Irish Release Date: 5th July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming had a lot to live up to. After a cracking entrance in Captain America: Civil War, in which we were given a mouth-watering glimpse of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) reinvented for the MCU, the first standalone film needed to deliver something fresh. With five films since 2002, we’re very familiar with the story of Peter Parker and key to this resurrection, is the fact that Spidey has now slung his web into the world of The Avengers.

Picking up two months after the airport showdown in Civil War, Peter is biding his time until he hears from Stark again, and like any teen, he is getting impatient – the neighbourhood being too small now for his dreams of fighting serious crime with his mentor. Lucky then, that there’s a bad guy right in his own backyard – a “psychopath dressed like a demon” in the shape of Vulture (Michael Keaton). A weapons designer utilising alien tech, who has managed to stay below the S.H.I.E.L.D. radar, until now.

This forms the framework of the story, but really there are two threads working seamlessly alongside each other –  Peter Parker’s navigation through high school with his best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) and him finding his place in the Avenger’s universe. The first gives a nod to John Hughes’ 80’s teen movies, complete with the loyal and funny best friend, the high school bully (Tony Revolori) and the most beautiful girl in school, Liz (Laura Harrier), whom Peter admires from afar as the Homecoming dance approaches.

Of the second, Downey Jr. brings his usual charm and wit as the cool uncle/father figure as he bounces off Holland’s performance, making the pair fantastic to watch but Holland is the star and rightly so. His Peter Parker/Spider-Man is so likeable and director Jon Watts establishes this from the opening frame with a hilarious video diary that makes you love him instantly.

Jon Favreau;Robert Downey Jr;Tom Holland

When it comes to the action, Watt delivers great set pieces, including a vertigo-inducing one that hits the mark, while another, is perhaps a little too frenetic but serves the story well. The only downside to having Spider-Man in the MCU, is knowing that Iron Man isn’t too far away thus dialling down the peril factor when it comes to the scrapes Peter finds himself in, but it’s a minor quibble.

The supporting cast are all great with nice work from Batalon (whom the film would be a lot duller without) Zendaya and Donald Glover. Marisa Tomei shines too in her scenes as the newly hip Aunt May. Having Keaton on board as the villain is a massive coup – his Vulture brings menace and brains and he has one of the best speeches in the film, bringing a serious note to an otherwise entertaining and enjoyable addition to the Marvel universe. Packed full of charm, it’s a perfect summer blockbuster that leaves your appetite whetted for the next instalment. Job done then.

4/5

Three things you need to STOP DOING RIGHT NOW if you’re writing your first draft

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I should preface this post with the fact that no, I’m not yet a published author but I have learned some stuff along the way and as I rocket through the first draft of my new book, I realise what a completely different experience it is to the first. So, here we go. Here’s the things you need to stop doing right now on your first novel:

1. Panicking about whether it’s any good

Yes, easier said than done but press that release valve, breath out all that stress and tension you’ve been holding in between your shoulder blades. Truth is, it doesn’t matter if its rubbish. It’s your rubbish, your search for the truth and even if its not clear or apparent in the first draft, you will find it later. You have to write the unsophisticated words before you find the elegant ones  (and often they’re the best anyway). So breathe deep and just get on with the business of the words. You’ll get to the end a lot quicker than you thought.

2. Researching

It’s endless. How will your brain remember it all? Not sure of court procedure for your legal thriller or just how many tablets would trigger an overdose for your troubled heroine? Save the Google search for draft number two. When I started my first draft, well before I even wrote a word, I read copiously for weeks. How was I going to write about life during the famine in 19th century Ireland without it? I drilled it into myself that even though it was fiction (and supernatural at that), it had to be authentic  – on the first draft. I hadn’t the writing confidence to just dive headlong into the murky waters. I attached myself to the research, clung to it like a lifebuoy.

What I didn’t realise was that it was actually drowning me. When I started to write, my mind became bogged down in historical accuracy and I lost the soul initially of what I was trying to say. Research feels like a very writerly thing to do and was fun to begin with, a look into the past, but it has a way of making you second guess yourself that holds you back. As a result, when it proves difficult to produce the work you want to, when fact and fiction become a tug of war, you start doubting if you should be writing a period piece at all. You ask yourself if this is just too big an undertaking and you lose confidence. Your research and your intense grip on it, starts to gnaw away at you.

Write the facts as you think they are, they can be checked later. Or leave them out altogether to be carefully inserted in the second draft when you can look at your whole story and see what it needs to be brought to life. Your first draft should be a complete fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience. Fact check later. You’ll get to the essence of what you want to say an awful lot quicker.

3. Worrying about Character

Before I started my first book, I not only researched my subject matter but I also researched how to write a novel in the first place. What were the secrets? How to develop your plot and of tantamount importance, create good characters. Again advice is all well and good and while some of it was useful, (such as a thinly sketched plot outline which of course did change but got me started), I also clung to the idea of writing character profiles before I put pen to paper. I felt I had to know who they were. Everything. Right then. But that’s not how we discover people in real life. You don’t get handed a character resume for each new person that enters your life. Time discovers them and you will as you go along. The notes did help to open the doors to my imagination but in the finished first draft almost three years later (yes it took that long) those people were barely recognisable from the traits I’d bestowed on them when I barely knew them.

What you realise only after you get to the end of your first draft is that you need to trust yourself more and let them off the leash. Discover them as you write. I think I was so scared of them, intimidated by the pressure of making them – good – believable – relatable, that they were stuck rigid for the first draft. When I got to the end I realised that my heroine, was a passive spectator in her own story and immediately needed to get back in there and let her loose. Let her to the surface. So let them fly. They will surprise you and that’s half the fun.

So whether you’re stuck at the 30,000 word mark or were psyched out about what you didn’t know or how long the journey is to the end, learning to care less and just write whatever comes into your head will get you there quicker. Be impulsive. You don’t need all the answers, not yet. And most of all enjoy it. It can be a hard slog but its worth it, every bit, every draft.

Good luck! Now, go write!

So my Date With An Agent at the London Book Fair 2017 went like this…

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In January I decided, as an unpublished and unagented writer to go to the London Book Fair. I wanted to find out what made it so special, see it for myself – peak at the wizard behind the curtain. To dispense with the far away allure and come away with a proper picture of how things really were in Oz.

I didn’t expect to get anywhere when I entered the Date With An Agent event but as I was going anyway, I thought I’d give it a shot. When I got word that I’d been accepted I was ecstatic, rereading the email over and over to see if maybe I was projecting positive words where there were none but no, I had a place and now a legitimate reason to go. The curtain was shifting.

Given my general tongue tied delivery, I thought it best to be prepared. Research. Notes. Full questions and answers document and then pacing the kitchen from one end to the other until I knew it inside out. I had business cards made (thank you Neogen) and I selected (with a little bit of help from friends and family), which of my suggested cover images I might show them should the conversation extend that far. My vision for the project. I would also show my experience in publicity and marketing, again should the topic of how to sell my book come up. Hell, it could go all the way and I allowed myself the dream that I would show them the whole world I had envisaged for my series while they grabbed the world’s biggest publishers into one room to begin the bidding war.

But while I’m a dreamer, I’m also a realist and with a little bit of homework on the fair itself, I found out that the agents and publishers conduct constant back to back meetings, for their existing clients on a separate floor. You needed an appointment just to get through the door. There would be no impromptu exchanges unless I accidentally tipped coffee over one in the queue for a danish. And so the date I had confirmed, grew in importance. One date, ten minutes. You try not to put too much pressure on yourself but its impossible when you’re wishing that this opportunity could change your life. A meeting with the wizard if you like.

I may as well have slept in my car, for all the sleep I had the night before. But then missing my red eye flight, was not an option. On the plane I ran through all my questions again in my mind. First my pitch, then questions that might be asked about conflict in my story, romance, themes, the period setting, the supernatural elements, my character breakdown, how I came up with the idea, authors that inspired me. I also had answers to the tricky question of what made my book different to others on the market, its target audience, my research, my plan for the series, and perhaps the biggest answer I’d prepared – how I would promote it. I prepared notes on other story ideas I had, just in case. I had done, I thought, as much as I could. My pitch was ready, once I didn’t falter.

Once inside, I made my way to the overhead balcony on the first floor just to peer into the warren below. From there I could see the expansive stands of Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon and Schuster and Pan Macmillan. Their stands from above looked like clinical cafes with lots of white tables set out for their meetings. I guessed they didn’t travel to the other floor. The agents came to them. The rock stars of the industry. Each of their stands had an exclusive entrance – again not somewhere you could wander into. But there is comfort in the familiar and I made my way to Author HQ, the area of the fair specifically designed for writers. Here I sat in on seminars on Copyright (useful), Sci-Fi and Fantasy (really good) and a presentation on self publishing by their sponsor Kindle Publishing Direct (always enlightening).

When the date rolled around after lunch I was ready, glad that at least my appointment would be done early in the day and I could breathe out at last. For the purposes of discretion, I won’t mention who the agent was I met, but suffice to say they were on my wishlist and so I was delighted. Would I remember by pitch? Damn it what was the first line? But as it turned out, they did most of the talking. They explained before I said anything that they’d read through my chapters (I’d sent the first three in advance) and that basically my manuscript was unsellable for at least another 15 years before my brand of supernatural characters i.e. vampires would make another appearance back into the publishing spotlight.

My pitch killed stone dead. No questions about my project, not even one I hadn’t prepared for. The agent wasn’t rude. They were very professional and friendly. They said they were happy to report that they liked my writing but suggested I try a mythological route, perhaps taking my protagonists into a new story – one from my Celtic background. I don’t dismiss it as an idea but to have them say it then, while my book lay dying in front of them was difficult to hear.

‘What do you want?’ they asked.

A very good question.

‘I want people to read this book’ I said, my hand nervously tapping my notes.

‘Then perhaps look at self-publishing for this book’, they suggested.

We talked for a few minutes more. In an attempt to take something away from it, I pitched my other idea for a book which they liked (good to try it out) but unwritten as it is, there is nowhere for it to go. I thanked them and they wished me luck in whatever I do.

As I walked away I kept thinking – they want me to write something else. The negative of that see-sawed with their positive comments about my writing. My self-confidence nonetheless shrivelled. Jesus, was I going to cry? No, pull yourself together. It had been a long day and it was still only half past two.

Maybe this wasn’t Oz after all. Maybe I’d wandered into the witches castle by mistake. Were an army of flying monkeys about to snatch me into the air and carry me out, drop me in the Thames? No. Still Oz – but maybe the wrong wizard for this Dorothy. And while I could have sat in my pyjamas at home to get another rejection, this face to face one was all the more jolting in a weirdly positive way. The truth is you won’t always hear what you want to hear. Because the person sitting opposite you is a person, an individual with a different experience, professionally and personally to you.

Were they right though about it being unsellable now? While my work was in no way an attempt to jump on the already peaked Twilight trend of the YA vampire when I started writing five years ago, I knew that it would be a difficult sell in the years following after it. So how quickly do trends come back? Is it fifteen years as they said? Like the Wicked Witch of the West, I was melting, cold water thrown over me as I disappeared into the floor.

The following morning, after a very nice meeting with a literary consultancy group I approached the big publishing stands – each manned with a reception desk and a gaggle of busy people. I asked if I could leave my information, my one page synopsis and cover art with them. The girls at the Harper Collins desk were lovely and helpful. Hell, they took it from me which was a small victory in my head. Some others looked at me as you would a five-year-old. ‘Oh, you know we don’t take unsolicited work? You need an agent. Have you heard of the Writers and Artists Yearbook?’ Strangely I told her I had. She wasn’t getting my vibe of YES OF COURSE I HAVE – I’M TRYING A DIFFERENT APPROACH HERE – JUST TAKE THE BLOOMIN INFO SO I CAN WALK AWAY FEELING LIKE I’M TRYING AND DOING ALL I CAN FOR MY BOOK. I smiled politely and walked away.

I hit the Ireland stand and hooray for the friendly and welcoming girl there who took my info no problem. I went to a few more seminars (all top notch and very helpful), listening closely to another Kindle Direct Publishing one. I know that there are readers out there for my book. They exist. I just need to reach them and if I can’t get a ‘legacy’ publisher on board, the option to go it alone and do it myself is very tempting – more so with every minute and the lure of complete control over my book, my cover, my pricing, my marketing, my rewards, grows with it.

Maybe something will come from my guerrilla marketing, maybe it won’t but I can’t say I didn’t try. The London Book Fair is that rare thing of soul crusher and dream builder.  Would I go again? Sure. Did I take a mental kicking? Sure, but then that’s nothing new. The submission process is a beast at the best of times.

This is the industry and it’s tough. And more doors will slam in my face than ever before and I’m putting myself in front of those doors and those people for a reason. Because I want my book to be read. Not a future book. THIS book. THIS story. Rejection toughens you, makes you resilient but most of all it makes you more determined than ever. So as long as doors are there I’ll keep knocking on them, politely and professionally. Or maybe I’ll get the wood and nails and build my own door to my readers.

Whatever the outcome for my book, the journey to release will have been a hell of a ride.

 

Review – JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2

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Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane.
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Cert: 16 Running Time: 122 mins
Release Date: 17th February 2017

It is a treat sometimes to return to the familiar, to take another adventure with John McClane, James Bond, Jason Bourne – an action outing led by a character so well defined both in motive and ability, that we sit down happily to enjoy another outing. In 2014 with the release of John Wick, another action icon was born. The success of the film with critics and audiences screamed for another instalment and so at last John Wick has returned.

There’s a reason the first film was so seminal. It marked the return to form of Keanu Reeves in a tailor made role, the kind so physically demanding as to require the laser precision prep Reeves is famous for. It was a simple revenge story but it was weaved into a rich tapestry of a world of killers and their code. And it was directed with style and fervour by former stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, bringing us bone crunching action in a world almost as cool as John Wick’s suits. There was also the matter of his car, the 1969 Boss Mustang – an echo of its driver’s prowess –  balletic in performance and relentless in its pursuit.

Chapter 2 offers up everything a sequel should. More of what made the first so great but with extra helpings on top. What it also has, is a cracking story – a legitimate reason for Wick to hit the streets again and returning writer Derek Kolstad has given John a stormer to play this time round. When an old colleague Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio), the one who helped him get out of the business years before, calls in a marker, he finds himself in Rome for a hit that will open up a whole new world of trouble and put a price on his head. Pursued by his peers, one of them Cassius (played by Common) seeks his own revenge on a professional grudge and so we are treated to a number of incredible action set pieces as John does what he does best.

The combat is relentless. Measured and precise, you can see every punch, kick and gunshot, all to the frenetic beating soundtrack so effective in the first. Bullets fly, knives stab, Wick kills over and over in a body count sure to top the last film. Stahelski knows his way around the action for sure but he also knows how to set the tone for the piece and bring Kolstad’s script to life. There is unexpected darkness that rises above the carnage and also humour, used sparingly but to good effect as John is asked in Rome if he’s “here for the Pope”. The setting itself is entirely appropriate given the religious iconography that dominates the John Wick universe.

He himself is described as “old testament” and “the devil’s emissary” with Wick returning to his vocation, a celibate man in black. There is a reverence, a church like calm to the safe haven of the ‘Continental’ hotel whose Rome branch is no less welcoming to the killer elite. The production design is a blend of gothic and modern, beautifully realised from the rooftops of New York and Rome to the subterranean tunnels below them. The subway scene is a blast of light and colour, while the catacombs of Rome are lit sometimes only by gun flare.

Blue eyed Scamarcio, brings a Shakespearean cool while Ruby Rose commits to a mute role while letting her hands do the talking. An appearance by Laurence Fishburne works beautifully and bristles with nostalgia and Peter Stomare too is great as a mobster listening to the carnage wrought by the devil as Wick annihilates his best men. As John prepares himself for Rome, his business of purchasing guns, body armour and intel are brilliantly done with a great cameo from Peter Serafinowicz as the Sommelier of firepower.

This is no dime a dozen rehash. Great thought and execution has gone into John Wick’s return. They are world building with every film and I for one can’t wait for the third instalment.

5/5

 

Review – T2 TRAINSPOTTING

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Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Cert: 18 Running Time: 117 mins
Release Date: 27th January 2017

The original Trainspotting was a visceral thumping heartbeat of a film, with breakout performances and a soundtrack that defined the times. Even the marketing was standout, from the black and white character driven art with its shot of neon orange introducing its bunch of losers, misfits and psychos.  It was never a film that screamed for a sequel, a carbon-copy cash-in that would see them all return for another slice of devilment. The film didn’t need it. Yet there is something powerful in experiencing it now after a twenty year gap in the story, inviting a heady hit of nostalgia that completely pays off.

As before the story circles Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) as he returns to Edinburgh for a short trip home from the Netherlands. Feeling reflective after a minor health scare, he  decides to track down his old pals. Unlike Mark, Spud (Ewen Bremner) never managed to get off the heroin and it has for 20 years sucked everything good from his life like a vampire. He lives in tower block squalor estranged from his wife Gail (Shirley Henderson) and their teenage son. Unemployed and unemployable, he goes from one hit to the next.

Sickboy/Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) on the other hand has a thriving enterprise in blackmail – a honey trap with hooker girlfriend Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova) extorting money from well-to-do pillars of society who enjoy a bit of kink on the side. Simon himself is a slave to it, using the money to fuel a cocaine addiction and living in a general spiral he can’t escape, running his Aunt’s pub down the docks. It’s an empty shell and so is he.

And then there’s Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Unchanged, he’s still a ball of angry testosterone, ready to go batshit crazy on someone for looking sideways at him. He’s spent the last 20 years in prison and seeing a chance at escape he finds himself back in his old hunting ground and on the trail of the returned Renton, who ran off with his cash two decades earlier.

Based on Irvine Welsh’s 2002 novel ‘Porno’, writer John Hodge has again proved himself a masterful adapter of his work. It’s a provocative, funny, weird, violent odyssey of a script that deftly juggles moments of poignancy and hilarity, laying the foundation for great performances, all set to the beat of director Danny Boyle’s incredible vision. Yes, it is another slice of Edinburgh devilment, but it stabs deep beyond the instant gratification of a good joke and crawls under the skin of each one of them.  Boyle deliberately teases the audience with glimpses from the first film and a haunting of notes from the first soundtrack used sparingly and to great effect.

McGregor, Lee Miller, Bremner and Carlyle are all terrific, while Nedyalkova shines in a role given more light and shade than perhaps other writers would have afforded. And then there’s that speech. It’s almost a parody at  first. Veronica asks Mark what the ‘Choose Life’ slogan means and so begins an updated rant from McGregor that is scarily precise, a dose of nostalgia bang up to the date.

If you liked the first film, you’ll love this one. As Empire magazine put it all those years ago – “Trainspotting is here and its toe-curlingly good”. So’s the sequel. See it immediately.

Time waits for no man.

5/5

Review – A MONSTER CALLS

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Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Cert: 12A Running Time: 112 mins
Release Date: January 1st 2017

It’s not often I’m left speechless by a film – tears running down my face, so quick that they’re on my neck before I can catch them. A Monster Calls struck something in me that makes an objective review impossible. It offered not only an incredible and moving cinema experience but it forced me to look at it through the prism of my own grief at the loss of my mother, also from cancer. It hit a nerve, head on, making no apologies and offering no anaesthetic. For some grief is a sudden thing, a baseball bat to the gut. For others, when death is preordained, it arrives early to burrow under your skin, leaving you defenceless against what’s to come.

It’s this grief that’s examined here, as 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) deals with his mum’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness. Feeling lost and helpless, he is visited by a monster – a giant yew tree (voiced by Liam Neeson) brought to life from the local cemetery. The monster offers to tell Conor three stories, (beautifully rendered by illustrator Jim Kay), giving the boy a momentary escape from the devastation not helped by an absent father (Toby Kebell), a distant grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and the local bullies.

Given the emotional nature of the story, it never once manipulates its audience, never once lies to you – it only tells the truth and in that darkness – in not veering towards the saccharine – it becomes something profound and in a way life changing. Director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible) and writer Patrick Ness work in perfect synchronicity – Bayona completely getting what Ness was going for and capturing it with a magical touch, a perfect mix of fantasy and reality. Had another writer taken Ness’ 2011 novel (based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd), it may have lost some of the darkness. With Ness’ pen it retains all its bite, humour and heart.

Neeson’s performance as the monster is staggering. His voice and the power of his words are stunning, his movements perfectly captured in CGI. Lewis MacDougall is heart wrenching as Conor and Felicity Jones heart breaking as the mother who knows she is leaving her son forever. In speaking about death and grief, A Monster Calls reaches deep into you, healing with its honesty. To grieve is to be human, to love, to laugh, to cry. While its normal to suppress grief, push the pain down, A Monster Calls allows it to bubble to the surface and leaves it respectfully with the audience to process as they will.

Regardless of how personally bound to the story you may be, it is a powerful watch and those just looking for a thought provoking, imaginative and entertaining (for it is) spectacle could do no better for it is as sure a perfect film as has come along in some time. In a word, astounding.

5/5