It's apparent from the beginning that "A Monster Calls" is going to tug on the heartstrings. There aren't a lot of zany comedies about a young boy with a terminally ill mother.

It's apparent from the beginning that "A Monster Calls" is going to tug on the heartstrings. There aren't a lot of zany comedies about a young boy with a terminally ill mother.

It's a fantasy story with a kid at the center, but not much of a kid's movie. Instead, it's a visually captivating tale that wrings plenty of emotion even when some of its pieces don't quite fit together seamlessly.

Its aspirations may outreach its delivery at times, but we need more movies like "A Monster Calls."

Conor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is going through something no 12-year-old boy should have to go through. His mother (Felicity Jones) is in the late stages of a terminal illness. Her treatments are not working. We know how this is going to end, and, so it seems, does Conor.

Meanwhile, Conor also must contend with his less-than-warm grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and the frequent attention of a school bully (James Melville).

Conor is then visited by a massive tree monster (played by Liam Neeson in voice and motion-capture) who offers Conor a needed outlet for the range of feelings he's going through.

Spanish director J.A. Bayona ("The Impossible") works from an adaption of a popular novel to create a dark fairy tale with some grown-up emotion.

"A Monster Calls" blends styles in the different worlds of its narrative. First, there's a very real family drama. This is anchored by a fine performance by MacDougall in the lead role, evoking a young boy's pain and anger at the potential loss of his mother. Jones, now best known for her lead work in "Rogue One," plays a very different role here. Her scenes are the ones most likely to unleash the waterworks.

The CGI-supported scenes with Neeson's monster take on a different tone that conjures more than a little Tim Burton. And, finally, as the monster tells stories to young Conor, they're depicted in a gloriously rich, storybook-style animation.

There's also an emotional allegory here that makes for an interesting (and very different) kind of kinship with a movie like "The Babadook."

While there's much to enjoy in each of these worlds, the end result does undercut the narrative flow a bit at times. Still, there's surprising emotional depth in a coming-of-age story that offers more than just tragedy.