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SELFISH GIANT, THE

SYNOPSIS:
13 year old Arbor (Conner Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas) are excluded from school; outsiders in their own neighborhood, the two boys meet Kitten (Sean Gilder), a local scrap dealer. Wandering their town with just a horse and a cart, they begin collecting scrap metal for him. Swifty has a natural gift with horses while Arbor emulates Kitten - keen to impress him and make some money. However, Kitten favors Swifty, leaving Arbor feeling hurt and excluded, driving a wedge between the boys. As Arbor becomes increasingly greedy and exploitative, tensions build, leading to a tragic event that transforms them all.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Astonishing naturalistic performances, especially by the two young leads, gives this gritty film its emotional power, while the downbeat mood and provincial setting gives it a bleak tone. It's frustratingly difficult to understand the English working class accents, but the thrust of the story about the boys' friendship comes through. (Distributor should consider subtitling the film.)

Clio Barnard's debut feature is sparse and brittle, intentionally so, highlighting the social deforestation caused by poverty in this unhappy provincial town. The boys, especially Arbor (Conner Chapman) rebel against everyone and everything, their parents too tired or soaked in their own nihilistic existence to manage him. The film begins with an angry Arbor being dragged out from beneath his bed by his friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas) against his will, violently pounding the planks of his bed from beneath.

Arbor is evidently a handful, his behaviour compounded by some sort of psychosis; we're never sure what. When they are both suspended from school - Arbor for ever - they turn to finding (or stealing) scrap, which they haul off to local scrap merchant, Kitten (Sean Gilder). This becomes a full time occupation, as they quickly learn the value of copper, even inside electric cables - especially industrial ones.

Their transport is Kitten's horse and cart, and Swifty - a natural young horse whisperer - quickly becomes of value to Kitten, who tries racing the poor darling to make him valuable. Arbor doesn't even get that superficial warmth in his relationship, except from Swifty, and his resentment grows.

Much of the nuance is lost in the accent-mangled dialogue but Barnard concentrates on the interaction between Arbvor and Swifty, and how external forces become potentially destructive to the relationship.

Barnard's use of off-kilter names and a cryptic title suggests she has deep seated agendas behind the screenplay but in the end the film's gut wrenching resolution is the most effective aspect of the film; just have to stick with it till then.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SELFISH GIANT, THE (MA15+)
(UK, 2013)

CAST: Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Ralph Ineson, Ian Burfield, Sean Gilder, Lorraine Ashbourne, Eliott Tittensor, Rebecca Manley, Mohammed Ali

PRODUCER: Tracy O'Riordan

DIRECTOR: Clio Barnard

SCRIPT: Clio Barnard

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Eley

EDITOR: Nick Fenton

MUSIC: Harry Escott

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Helen Scott

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2014







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