A teenage boy's struggle with his mother's terminal illness takes a surreal turn when he finds comfort in a giant talking tree monster in the emotional fantasy drama "A Monster Calls."

The film is already attracting awards buzz for its young Scottish star, Lewis MacDougall, who plays Conor, a quiet, artistic teenage boy who becomes a target for the school bully.

"I guess really I would use experiences in my own life to try and understand what Conor is feeling," MacDougall, 14, told reporters at the New York premiere on Wednesday.

MacDougall has been nominated for two critics awards by US groups as well as a Spanish Feroz award.

The film, which also stars Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones, is adapted from the children's book of the same name by Patrick Ness.

Director JA Bayona incorporated watercolor animations to illustrate the stories of good and evil.