The selfish giant

In Oscar Wilde’s fable The selfish giant, as the children are chased from the giant’s garden, winter comes in. Killing life. No more flowers. No more tree leaves. No more birds singing. Documentary filmmaker Clio Barnard’s The selfish giant is said to be loosely based on Wilde’s  so ‘loosely’ in fact that it is impossible to find something resembling the story except some vague symbolism and metaphors. Purists beware! Arbor and Swifty are two teenage boys living in the impoverished area of Bradford, England. Thirteen-years-old Arbor is a hyperactive boy who always seems to be raging about somebody or something. The ‘f-word’ is used a lot here: children to adults, adults to children. Taller, gentler Swifty is Arbor’s best friend. When they are both expelled from school,  the lads find a way to make money selling scrap-metal at the local scrapyard. Kitten, the owner, is far from a positive influence but the boys are attracted by the wads of cash they witness other people collect. Kitten exploits their interests pushing them towards more dangerous tasks. Meanwhile Swifty finds comfort in taking care of Kitten’s horse. This film may remind you of the cinema of Ken Loach (Kes Family life and more recently The angel’s share). Like Loach, Barnard’s film is about the lower class. The characters speak with a heavy Yorkshire accent that is at times difficult to understand. The film may be shown with english subtitles. The ultra realism of the direction and milieu described sometimes clash with a manipulating screenplay pulling at the heartstrings. But the non-professional leads Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas give emotionally wrenching performances. Recommended.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The selfish giant

Directed by: 
Clio Barnard
Screenplay by: 
Clio Barnard
Loosely based on Oscar Wilde
Conner Chapman
Shaun Thomas
Sean Gilder 

91 min.

Rated 14A

In Yorkshire-accented English  but may be shown with English subtitles


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