Every once in a while, I check out a limited release indie flick so I can find a hidden gem. For the most part, I find overdone dramas without panache, documentaries that look more like exploitation flicks, and heavy handed dramadies that donâ€™t have enough laughs. But itâ€™s all worth it when I find the one diamond in the pile of coal. The Selfish Giant was that diamond.
This is a type of coming of age movie with a fable mixed in. In it, 13 year old friends Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas) are general outcasts and looking to make some money on the side. Then, they meet Kitten (Sean Gilder), aka, the selfish giant and a local scrap dealer. The boys start collecting scrap metal for Kitten with a horse and cart. Swifty, being great with horses, handles the cart itself. Arbor, who looks up to Kitten, handles the business. As Arbor becomes increasingly infatuated with Kitten, tension builds between the two boys, eventually leading to a tragedy.
This is not an easy movie and itâ€™s not comfortable to watch. Thick Yorkshire accents make the actors difficult to understand at times, but subtitles are provided for those needing an English toâ€¦English translation.[more…]
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie is that the two boys playing the leads were not professionals, but actors pulled from Bradfordâ€™s council estates. Both boys manage to appear both innocent, but growing more hard edged as the rift between them grows. It was truly a remarkable interaction, especially for people with no formal training.
Sean Gilderâ€™s Kitten is one part surrogate parent, and one part pure exploitative leader. He is simply wonderful as the catalyst between the two boys, but somehow his acting skills are overshadowed by a couple of inexperienced kids.
Director Clio Barnard manages to beautifully capture the grimy scenery of urban-rural fringe of Bradford, managing to pack despair and desperation into its shots. This unflinching look at poverty, in a seemingly innocent rural landscape provides a subtle parallel to the two main characters.
Again, this isnâ€™t an easy watch. Itâ€™s gloomy, harsh, unflinching and heart breaking. But itâ€™s good. Between the excellent camera work and direction, to the superb acting of two untried leads, the movie manages to be heart wrenching and completely realistic.
Of course, the movie was loosely adapted from an Oscar Wild fairy tale of the same name. In it, the selfish giant has a beautiful garden, but he wonâ€™t allow any children to play in it. Itâ€™s a story about the redeeming power of innocence over adversity.
Unfortunately, it doesnâ€™t end so well in this movie. Tragedy plays out and it is expected to play out. Expect no levity. This is a hard movie to watch, but worth the experience.
Hopefully, this movie will lead to more work for the director and the two young leads, as they all clearly have excellent futures ahead of them. If you are looking for an indie gem, and the need for comedic relief is not a complete deal breaker, than this bleak but beautiful film is one to watch.
Watch the movie trailer below.