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Friday, December 20, 2013


Swifty (Shaun Thomas) and Arbor (Conner Chapman) in Clio Barnard’s SELFISH GIANT. Courtesy of Agatha A. Nitecka.
2013, 91 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Clio Barnard's dark drama The Selfish Giant has been winning raves around the world for its devastating depiction of friendship, and for good reason.  This is a film by a woman who has an enormous talent for telling a powerful story without pulling at the heartstrings.  Barnard also impresses with her ability to direct two incredible performances out of her two young lead actors Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas.  

The film tells the story of Arbor and Swifty, two best friends living in a working-class area of the UK, who steal scrap metal and sell them to Kitten, a crooked local scrap dealer.  However, Kitten begins to favor Swifty, causing a strain in Arbor and Swifty's friendship.

The Selfish Giant is a grim film that shines due to the performances and Barnard's direction.  There are many small moments, particularly in the gut-wrenching final third, that make this film a winner.  Barnard seems to be in complete control of her film, and Chapman and Thomas are perfectly cast.  Chapman made me care for Arbor through good and bad.

Overall, The Selfish Giant is a beautiful film that will resonate with many due to its honesty and stark sense of realism.  You have to like your films on the darker side to enjoy this film.  However, even if you don't, this may be worth viewing simply to see a great piece of filmmaking.  Clio Barnard is a director to watch out for.


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