Once upon a time, there was a story. The story tells a tale about a young boy and a tree. Surely most people have noticed that the story is not really about that, when a "monster" calls, it is not the tree that calls the boy, it is not the boy who calls the tree. It's the monster within the boy, the boy, is the "monster". Because of his mother's illness, the boy constantly lives in fear, the fear of losing his mother, of being alone, of getting ignored, just because people only feel sorry for him. I'm sure most of you got the part of the tree being a metaphor and all, so I'll spend less time on that. The tree forces him to face his truth, and the truth is that he just want it to all be over, and because the truth is so "evil" it tortures him, every night, in his dreams, he could never hold on to his mother. Blah, blah, blah…
OK, now that we got that out of the way. Let's talk about some things that maybe not everyone have noticed, also why this movie impressed me so much: First thing, structure. The structure of the movie was pieced together just perfect enough for us to understand things as we go, not too much, not too little. The film begins with his dream, his nightmare. Might be just a little cheesy. But it is perfect for us to understand his fear, also when the tree makes his first appearance, we can refer to that as the "nightmare" that he mentions. The morning after he smashes the house, his father making noise down stairs is perfect for dragging the audiences' nerve with him, because we are with him on thinking its grandma he has to face. We have all been there, being a kid who did something wrong, waiting for the punishment. The room upstairs was always locked, and every time he looks through the keyhole, we never actually see what's in that room until the end.
Second thing, details. Some of the things I mentioned in the first part are also considered details, but there's more. I watched the first half twice, because I watched it half way and realized what a great movie it is so I paused it and downloaded a subtitle to watch it with my mum(She doesn't speak English). There's a reason I mention this, because the second time watching it, I noticed a lot more things. First time we see the classroom he sits in, in the background, on the blackboard, out of focus, drawn with chock is a mother's womb with a baby in there (I'm sure you know why). The second time we are in the classroom, right after the first tale about good and evil, in the background the teacher says, "Now there are always two sides to a story…" This, thanks to having downloaded the subtitle for my mum, I noticed, because the voice was so low that I wouldn't have heard what exactly she was saying if wasn't for the thoughtful subtitle. Third time in the classroom, time for the exam, its also time for the third tale, time to test "what you have learned from the last two weeks"(last two tales). Fourth time in the classroom, right after he released himself, the teacher is talking about emotional well being, "how good it feels when you finally find the courage to say it." this is also when he has to face his fear, and say his truth. Honestly the production design is also brilliant, I can't list out all the things for you, but if you watch it again, you might notice, especially in the classroom, everything on the wall helps telling the story. There are a lot more than what I have mentioned here. Third thing, animation. I loved the animation style used in the movie, they chose to use watercolor, like us humans, we were born in water, made of water. The soft touch of the paintings is like the boy's tears dripping inside, just like the tree he drew. The transitions in the animation is what impressed me the most, spider becomes witch's hand, tree's arm becomes a bridge, the priest smashes the book down and turn into riding a horse cart. That's just beautiful for me. Also when he comes home, from behind the glass door, he looks just like the characters in the watercolor. Finally, the best part. Yes of course I left the best part to the end, and yes of course there is a best part - Liam Neeson! At the beginning title, I did notice his name appearing in the credit, but half way through the movie, I almost forgot about it. Until I saw the pictures on the table in grandma's house. Wait, that's Liam Neeson in the picture holding a little girl(the boy's mum). Then I started wondering. OK if he only plays a few pictures in the background in the movie, how come he is in the beginning credit, when they only list main casts. Unless… I went to the film's IMDb page, and just as a suspected. He plays the tree in the film. This might be a joke to some people because I'm sure many of you were able to recognize his voice right when you heard it, but unfortunately I am not familiar with it enough to be sure about it until I checked the credit. Anyway, basically what I'm saying is that the tree and the grandpa who was never shown in the film are played by the same person. And if you had any question about how does his mother see the same tree monster as he does, and why she drew the tree too in her drawing pad. That is your answer, because the tree is her father.