A Monster Calls tells the story of a young boy struggling to cope with his mother’s terminal illness, who finds solace with the help of a terrifying monster that takes the form of a tree and tells tales that give meaning to his feelings of grief, anger, and loss.
It’s a message that feels equally powerful to director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible) and the film’s cast, which includes Pan actor Lewis MacDougall as the boy, Felicity Jones as his mother, and Liam Neeson as the titular monster.
“A Monster Calls deals with how to grow as a young boy and where you fit in the world — and we’ve all been through that,” Neeson says in the exclusive featurette above about the making of the film. “We all have tales to tell.”
Jones calls it a “visual feast” of a film — which includes breathtaking animated sequences from the monster’s tales that can be seen in the video — that also carries a message of “great hope.”
“You come away feeling inspired by the story and it really stays with you,” she says.
Bayona previously told EW the film, based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Patrick Ness (from a story originated by Siobhan Dowd, who died of cancer), “doesn’t deal with cancer and bullies in a sentimental way.”
“Cancer and bullying are such big themes they can handle a film all on their own,” says Bayona. “You need to be careful. It’s strong material. Ultimately the message of this film is more about how we cope with the truth. It’s tricky and it’s something I’ve never experienced before. In the edit room, if we changed one single piece of the scene, the whole movie would change.”
A Monster Calls opens on Dec. 23. Watch the cast discuss the film in the video above.
This article originally appeared on EW.com