12-year-old Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is about to escape into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales. He is dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness, which has necessitated Conor’s spending time with his less-than-sympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). His daily existence at his U.K. school is one of academic disinterest and bullying by classmates. As Conor’s father (Toby Kebbell) has resettled thousands of miles away in the U.S., the boy yearns for guidance.

He unexpectedly summons a most unlikely ally, who bursts forth with terrifying grandeur from an ancient towering yew tree and the powerful earth below it: a 40-foot-high colossus of a creature (portrayed in performance-capture and voiceover by Liam Neeson) who appears at Conor’s bedroom window @12:07 one night – and at that time on nights thereafter. The Monster has stories to tell, and he insists that Conor hear them and powerfully visualize them. Conor’s fear gives way to feistiness and then to looking within; for, The Monster demands that once the tales are told it will be time for Conor to tell his own story in return. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth.

Director's Biography

J.A. Bayona’s most recent feature film as director was A Monster Calls, starring young actor Lewis MacDougall, along with Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson. A visually spectacular and stunningly emotional drama based on the award-winning novel. The screenplay adaptation is by the book’s author, Patrick Ness. Mr. Ness wrote the novel from an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd.

A Monster Calls won 9 Goya Awards, which are Spain’s Oscars equivalent, including Best Director and 8 Gaudí Awards.

Prior to making A Monster Calls, Mr. Bayona directed the first two episodes of Showtime’s series Penny Dreadful, starring Eva Green, which instantly attracted a loyal following.

His second feature film was The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Holland; it was based on the powerful true story of a family’s survival of the tragic Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. The Impossible grossed more than $180 million at the worldwide box office and brought Ms. Watts Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Academy Award nominations. Mr. Holland received honors including an Empire Award for Best Newcomer. The Impossible won five Goya Awards, including Best Director; and six Gaudí Awards, including Best Director.

Born in Barcelona, he grew up with a passion for film. This led him to become a journalist and later to study directing, at the Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia (ESCAC).

After directing two short films, My Holidays and The Sponge Man, Mr. Bayona met screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez, who gifted him with the script for The Orphanage, which became his first feature as director. The Orphanage world-premiered at the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival to a 10-minute standing ovation. It was then released nationally in Spain, and its opening four-day box office was the highest of the year and at the time the second-highest ever for a Spanish film.

The Orphanage was nominated for 14 Goya Awards, winning seven including Mr. Bayona’s for Best New Director.



Shown at festivals:
London BFI FF, San Sebastian IFF, Toronto IFF, Zurich FF

Awards won:
2008 - Goya Awards - Best New Director - The Orphanage
2013 - Goya Awards - Best Director - The Impossible
2013 - Gaudí Awards - Best Director - The Impossible
2017 - Goya Awards - Best Director - A Monster Calls
2017 - Gaudí Awards - Best Director - A Monster Calls

Cast & Crew

Directed by: J.A Bayona

Written by: Patrick Ness

Produced by: Belén Atienza, Ghislain Barrois, Álvaro Augustín

Cinematography: Oscar Faura

Editing: Bernat Vilaplana, Jaume Martí

Production Design: Eugenio Caballero

Costume Design: Steven Noble

Make-Up & Hair: Marese Langan

Original Score: Fernando Velázquez

Sound Design: Oriol Tarragó

Cast: Lewis MacDougall (Conor), Sigourney Weaver (Grandma), Liam Neeson (Monster), Felicity Jones (Mum), Toby Kebbell (Dad)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Sound Designer 2017
  • People's Choice Award 2017
  • Feature Film Selection 2017