Bringing his first feature to the Toronto Film Festival in 2002, Keith Behrman is back this year with Giant Little Ones, a film inspired by tragic events in recent Canadian history.

“About five years ago in Canada, kind of in a month, there were about three or four kids who committed suicide because they were being harassed at school for being gay, or being perceived as gay,” Behrman recalled, sitting down today at Deadline’s Toronto Studio. “I was talking to a friend of mine about that and we were both just really concerned about it, and he suggested we make a film about it.”

Behrman’s approach to this film wasn’t a direct one—he didn’t want to take on a film specifically about a person who takes his own life. Emerging from a dream the director had involving “this boy talking to his mother in the kitchen,” Giant Little Ones centers on two teen boys, coming of age as best friends, whose lives are upended after an unexpected sexual encounter on the night of a 17th birthday party.

Appearing with their director to discuss the film today were stars Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson, Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello. Wiggins, who plays Franky—one of the aforementioned boys—found Behrman’s script entirely relatable. “Its about navigating high school and navigating growing up, and having people say things about you and hearing all the things that can get spread around,” the actor said. “Something that everybody can relate to.”

Throwing a further wrench into Franky’s confusing adolescent experience is the coming-out of his father (played by MacLachlan), which threatens to break the boy’s family apart. “This is a film about truth and I think he made some very, very difficult decisions. It wasn’t a difficult decision for what he was going through. But certainly for the people that [were] going to be affected by that decision,” MacLachlan reflected, with relation to father Ray Winter, touching on his own experience as a dad. “I found [that] he’s got his own moral code, and he’s got a quiet strength to him, and he, I think, presents himself to his family in a way that’s about trust and about following your heart.”

For Bello, portraying Franky’s mother, the film’s interweaving plot lines spoke to “the fluidity of love and friendship and relationships and sexuality.”

“That is very, very current and a worthwhile subject to be dealing with, but [the film] does it in such a way that is fresh and fun,” she explained. “It’s not like it’s an issue movie; it’s a movie about family and friendship and being authentic to who you are, and not abiding to someone else’s labels.”

Added Mann, “Love is love.”

In retrospect, Hickson is able to see that the film impacted her own life in a very welcome way. “I got to revisit and address some things in my past that I didn’t understand were damaging, that I was carrying with me,” the actress revealed. “Me and Keith had a lot of in-depth talks about that and it gave me some insight.”

For more from our conversation, click above.

Deadline Studio at TIFF 2018 presented by eOne. Special thanks to sponsor Watford Group, and partners Calii LoveLove Child Social, and Barocco Coffee.