...because therapists don’t pay home visits. Liam Neeson gets transmogrified into a weirdly muscular tree-man summoned by the tortured psyche of young Conor O’Malley, who is plagued by nightmares about his dying mother. (As a withdrawn artist type, he’s also plagued by a nasty cardboard bully.) The monster promises to tell three stories in his quiet boom of a voice, after which, Conor must tell the truth about his nightmare. But while the stories are built from the stuff of fairy tales — queens, princes, healers, angry townspeople, etc. — they’re all twisted up into something more like highly personalized parables (and unhelpful ones at that). Conor needs the monster’s wisdom, in part because the real world is busy teaching him that “love isn’t enough; it doesn’t carry you through,” that there’s no point in apology or punishment after transgression, and that he should smash things if he feels the need. Director J.A. Bayona presents appealing worlds (real and imagined) awash in color and detail, but while his movie and its monster are very interested in exploring and explaining humanity, they don’t quite get people. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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