A new Christmas movie due to hit the small screen has been described as a “fairy tale for our times”.

Sky’s The Heist Before Christmas, starring James Nesbitt, tells the tale of two young brothers from a family who don’t have much money, who meet two Santa Clauses in the woods.

Nesbitt paid tribute to his young colleagues Bamber Todd, who plays 12-year-old Mikey Collins, and Joshua McLees, who plays seven-year-old Sean, for bringing magic to the screen.

A promotional poster for The Heist Before Christmas (Sky/PA)

Mikey, who hates Christmas, finds the two Santas in the woods – one, played by Nesbitt, has just pulled off a bank heist and is on the run with the cash, while the other Santa, played by Timothy Spall, claims to have fallen out of his sleigh.

Sean is spellbound by Spall’s Santa, while his older brother plots to snatch the robber’s cash to give their family the Christmas of their dreams.

However, the plot teases a twist that even as Mikey risks everything for the loot, he comes to realise that maybe the spirit of Christmas may be alive after all.

Nesbitt told the PA news agency that he feels the movie encapsulates the message of Christmas – the joy, but also the hardship for a lot of people.

“For us, and I don’t think it matters how much age separates us, Christmas is very important to us, and I think the film is very good at opening a window on to those who struggle at Christmas, and those we should think of at Christmas, but also it’s funny.

“Hopefully something that families can sit together and watch.”

While this is Nesbitt’s first Christmas movie, he admitted he has previously dressed up as Santa as a favour to his sisters.

“But even that, in last minute poor outfit, going into school and seeing the wonder – all children need the suggestion of it and it unlocks their imagination.

“It is one of those things that cannot be eroded in a sense or changed, children at a certain age still have a relationship with this figure. It’s something we lose a bit as we get older but actually Christmas reminds us of it, and it’s really important.”

Todd described playing his character as a big responsibility, reflecting on the things Mikey had to face at such a young age.

“To me I thought he might want to feel the spirit of Christmas, but he just can’t allow himself to because he feels like if he becomes weak then he’s going to let his whole family down,” he said.

Whereas McLees enthusiastically embraces the festive fantasy but said the film also gave him pause for thought at this time of year.

“My character loved Santa, he was his idol. Even all round the year he didn’t think anything more of it, just thought it was a normal family, but were actually struggling, and it really makes you think what some families are going through. I wouldn’t want to sit on a Belfast street on Christmas Eve,” he said.

Another Northern Ireland-born star among the cast is Bronagh Waugh who plays police officer Georgina.

The Fall alumna said she enjoyed that her character has “a bit of heart and humour”, after playing some grittier roles in recent years.

She praised the dark Northern Ireland humour of the script written by Ronan Blaney, an aspect of the Channel 4 hit Derry Girls which has won fans across the world.

“The script is what attracted me initially, it’s really witty and funny, and I think really encapsulates Northern Ireland humour – the black humour in times of strife, how we laugh and come together,” she said.

“But I think people from everywhere will identify with that, I was keen to share that with people from the rest of the UK.”

Director Edward Hall described the story as a “fairy tale for our times”.

“It has wonderful comic heart, it is built on real truth, it’s touching, it’s real, it’s a piece of magical fantasy telling the story of real people in a real world,” he said.

“Ronan, who is from Northern Ireland, knew his characters very well. That’s what I liked about the film, it wasn’t afraid to be real when it needed to be and I think it reminds you of what Christmas should be about.

“At the same time I think it’s very very funny, which is why I wanted to direct it.”

The Heist At Christmas is set to premiere on Sky Max and streaming service NOW this festive season.