If you’re going to have someone on your side to protect you from bad guys and guide you through life’s trials and tribulations, there is probably nobody better than Sigourney Weaver to get the job done. But although she’s one of the most badass action stars in film history, she’s leaving the niceties to Liam Neeson this time around.
Weaver has signed on to the cast of the children’s fantasy flick A Monster Calls, an adaptation of the brilliant 2011 novel from Patrick Ness that will be directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible) and feature Neeson as the title creature. The actress is taking on something a little more frosty in the film, playing grandmother to 13-year-old protagonist Conor, whose life is especially complicated with a double whammy of brutal bullying from classmates at school and his mother’s (Felicity Jones) prognosis of terminal cancer. The teen doesn’t have much of a support system either, just a father (Toby Kebbell) who’s virtually nonexistent — never bothering to check in on his miserable soon — and a terrible relationship with the grandmother.
Compounding Conor’s problems is the fact that every night shortly after the stroke of midnight he is awoken from a horrible nightmare and visited by a tree monster. This massive mix of branches and leaves in humanoid form (who surprisingly has a much more varied vocabulary than “I am Groot”) tells the teen that he’s going to tell him fantastical stories in exchange for hearing some of his own. The problem is that having a towering tree creature around also leads to real-life consequences, such as minor assault and vandalism — trying to keep branches in check is tricky business.
But ultimately the monster is Conor’s protector and friend, helping him confront his nightmares and heal in the wake of his real-life problems while letting him escape into fantasy. Neeson is perfect to portray the creature, because who else is imposing and intimidating enough to take on the role? He’s a tree with a particular set of skills. Weaver as Conor’s cold and calculating grandmother is also a perfect choice, because there are few people that it would be worse to disappoint. Seeing her step into an Emily Gilmore sort of role is going to be a nice departure from her recent lineup — although A Monster Calls is a fantasy film, her character does not seem to be rooted in anything sci-fi, unlike her other upcoming projects, namely the three Avatar sequels and Chappie.