From the outside it seems like there is nothing in common between the 2007 spooky thriller The Orphanage and 2012’s emotional disaster film The Impossible, besides the fact that they share a director in Juan Antonio Bayona. But when you strip away the ghouls and the massive tsunami, what’s left is a story about the bonds of family getting stretched beyond their comfort zone. It’s a theme Bayona is returning to for his next film, an adaptation of the critically acclaimed 2011 children’s book A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness with illustrations from Jim Kay. Make sure you have your tissues handy.

A Monster Calls has quite the interesting backstory. Ness, who holds the rare distinction of winning the Carnegie Medal (the British award for outstanding new children’s or young adult book) two years in a row, created the narrative based on the outline laid out by author Siobhan Dowd, who won the Carnegie two years before Ness. Dowd began work on the book after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and died in 2007, before she was able to do much with it. In stepped Ness and Kay, who won the Greenaway Medal for children’s book illustrators.

Set in England, A Monster Calls revolves around 13-year-old Conor, a bullied child whose mother is dying of cancer. Conor has been plagued with a series of nightmares on a nightly basis, but his relief arrives in the form of a large tree-shaped monster that promises to tell him three stories in exchange for the one that fuels Conor’s nightmares. It’s a tale of grief and acceptance, and one that will definitely stand tall over the mostly saccharine children’s films that clog cinemas. Sometimes it seems as though the British have certain talents that allow them to handle young adult fare with a maturity far beyond many American authors.

Check out the book’s engaging trailer below.

I think Bayona is a smart choice for the film, which is a co-production between Lionsgate International, Focus Features, River Road Entertainment and Participant Media. He’s proven himself capable of telling somber stories with exciting elements, and he should be helped along greatly as Ness will be adapting his book for the screenplay. That should keep the tone intact without a lot of unnecessary add-ons.

Bayona flaunted his horror side again when he directed the first couple of episodes for Showtime’s upcoming literary monster drama Penny Dreadful. He is supposed to direct the planned World War Z sequel, but that probably won’t get started for another lifetime or so if it’s anything like Marc Forster’s production on the first film. And it sounds like A Monster Calls’ trip from page to screen will be quite a long one.

According to THR, a release date is being planned for late 2016, as I’m assuming they’ll have quite a bit of CGI imagery keeping the flick mired in post-production.

Have you guys read the book? Tell us what you think.
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