Film Review – The Selfish Giant (2013)

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Title – The Selfish Giant (2013)

Director – Clio Barnard (The Arbor)

Cast – Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder

Plot – Partly inspired by an Oscar Wilde short story, The Selfish Giant sees young boys Arbor (Chapman) and Swifty (Thomas) finding themselves out of school and working for scrap metal yard owner Kitten (Gilder). Arbor holds a deep desire to succeed at his tasks while driving the more laidback and kind natured Swifty to his behest that could lead them into a dangerous spot with the hot tempered Kitten.

 “I’m a scrap man”

Review by Eddie on 6/10/2014

A British indie much in the same vein of standout examples like Fish Tank, Tyrannosaur and in many respects This Is England, Clio Barnard’s small budget acting driven piece is also much like these films not something to watch if you are in the need of a cheer up,  but is an impressively constructed, scripted and acted piece that despite showing it’s hand too early, provides a frank, honest and raw look at the lives of childhood friends Arbor and Swifty.

To say that Arbor and Swifty are underprivileged would be an understatement, for these children are very much the products of their environment that disallows them to focus on being a child. Arbor played by the often great Conner Chapman is an angry boy, the boy at school that is a ticking time bomb of violence and attitude and a leader to the more mellow and slow Swifty played by the also quite great Shaun Thomas. As a team, Arbor and Swifty are a mismatched pair, Arbor a part of a divorced parent team and Swifty a member of a large “pikey” like family that he clearly feels responsible for, but the two work together gathering scrap and products to try and make a dollar and help support their lives as school goes on the backburner. Arbor and Swifty’s plight may seem like a slight journey yet the direction of Barnard is a steady one that leads to many a touching moment.

The Selfish Giant is at its core a tale of friendship and a tale of survival in a sad state of affairs for these boys and it’s a tale that feels sadly believable. With a great eye for the grimy detail of the world these boys live in (again harkening back to these other fine U.K films of the similar vein) Barnard captures this life of the boys fantastically from the fog strewn paddocks, the telephone tower laden lands or the rundown housing complexes, the world feels authentic and the characters relatable. The boy’s dealings with scrap metal owner and horse enthusiast Kitten also feels real in a place where everyone is looking to rip off everyone and a child doing a man’s job is nothing to baulk at.

With a pace that is at times awkwardly played out and with a story that sadly ends up exactly how it looks likely to, The Selfish Giant is held back slightly by its own doings but is popped up to a high standing thanks to some great young actors, a heartfelt script and a fine directional turn from the to watch with interest Barnard. Not a movie to bring a smile to your face, but a movie that is another fine showcase for the impressive work many budding British filmmakers are producing that are all types of authentic and true.

3 and a half stripped wires out of 5

6 responses to “Film Review – The Selfish Giant (2013)

    • Haha mate hope the watch list isn’t to long! I’ve wittled mine down a little bit at the moment which is a nice feeling. You’ll have to let us know what you thought of this one when you catch it.

  1. Saw this one late last year and was really impressed. Struck a particular chord being set and filmed in my home town. It’s definitely been a great decade for Independent British cinema.

    • It certainly has man! I have seen countless brilliant films come out of the independent scene over there in the U.K, it’s great for us and for them. This did seem very authentic right down to the locations.

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