This loose update of the Oscar Wilde fable tells the tale of raging, impulsive Arbor, a boy kicked out of school and into an illegal trade, stealing copper cable for sale. With its underclass characters and misty Bradford setting, Clio Barnard's second feature has the tone of a Dardennes film, but with a distinct British edge.
Contemporary World Cinema
The Selfish Giant
Acclaimed at this year's Cannes film festival, Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant is a remarkably assured British feature that conveys a palpable sense of humanity as it paints a portrait of two unlikely young friends.
Set in a struggling working-class community in Bradford, England, Barnard's film tells the story of two schoolmates: the scrappy, hyperactive Arbor (Conner Chapman) and the reserved, more mature Swifty (Shaun Thomas). Nearly inseparable, the boys have a mutually beneficial friendship — one is the working body, the other is the shouting mouth. To pick up some extra cash, Arbor and Swifty begin collecting scrap metal for Kitten (Sean Gilder), a shady local dealer with a penchant for racing horses. Arbor is eager to please, desiring the wealth that appears to come with Kitten's lifestyle. But it soon becomes evident that Swifty is the favoured one, because of his rare equestrian talents. As jealousy sets in, the fragile bond that holds Arbor to his closest mate begins to crumble away.
Smoothly making the transition to
conventional narrative after her critically
acclaimed experimental film The Arbor,
Barnard evokes the energy, and the attention
to cultural detail, of Ken Loach's early work. Drawing from the vibrant community
in which it is set, the film builds to
some memorable sequences, including a
surprising, cinematic chariot race. With
delicacy and grace, Barnard draws out great
performances from her young leads, and
brings the film to a powerfully emotional
climax. Stark, stirring, and often hilarious,
The Selfish Giant is a remarkably successful