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The Selfish Giant
DIRECTOR Clio Barnard
CAST Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder, Lorraine Ashbourne
Oscar Wilde’s classic fairy tale is relocated to modern day Bradford in this powerful and moving film from one of Britain’s finest young film-makers. When teenagers Arbor and Swifty are excluded from school, they start collecting scrap metal for the shady and cruel ‘Kitten’. But their friendship falters as they vie for Kitten’s favour, with tragic consequences. A brilliant social-realist drama, heartfelt and passionate, with astonishingly strong performances from the teenage leads. (2013 UK 91 minutes)
BBFC advice: Contains strong language, once very strong.
Detailed advice from the BBFC (click on BBFC insight)
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Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name, The Selfish Giant tells the tale of Arbor and Swifty, two young boys growing up in an underprivileged town in Yorkshire. Struggling to fit in at school, and each facing their own challenges at home, the two friends find their seemingly directionless lives given dubious purpose when they meet local scrap-dealer Kitten, from whom they learn of the lucrative demand for copper wire. Kitten allows the boys to use his horse and cart to collect scrap metal, but as the pair start getting to grips with the trade, a divide is formed when their mentor starts showing favour towards Swifty, leaving the cocky Arbor feeling excluded and increasingly irresponsible in his actions.
Barnard has a lightness of touch that keeps the story’s humanity as important as the drama. Its elements may seem like a recipe for dour, ’60s-style, kitchen-sink misery, but the effect is much less hectoring and profoundly moving, putting the emphasis not so much on the tragic arc as the unwitting characters. They live in grim times and grim places, but Barnard brings us to them, not them to us, until we see beyond their circumstances. As with Kes, the results are real and raw, a story in which we see the people we all could be — if our choices were fewer and our future more bleak. A terrific human drama about two boys about to be consigned to the scrapheap, with standout performances from its young leads. Damon Wise, Empire
UK RELEASE 25 October 2013
RUNNING TIME 91 minutes