Inspired by the Oscar Wilde story of the same name, The Selfish Giant explores the friendship between two young teenage boys growing up in Northern England.
Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas) are schoolmates in a rough, impoverished corner of Bradford. The boys have their assorted issues – Arbor has a hyperactivity disorder which often leads him into trouble, and Swifty is the constant target of school bullies – but they look out for each other.
When the boys are suspended from school for fighting, Arbor decides they can earn money collecting metal for the local scrapyard, dragging Swifty into the scheme along with him. As their business venture progresses, tensions and competition arise between the pair, threatening their friendship.
The Selfish Giant makes for an intense and contemplative cinema experience. The almost complete lack of soundtrack, the sparse aesthetic and thick northern accents make it a little inaccessible at first, but once you’ve acclimatised it is absolutely worth it.
The film has been described as a “contemporary fable”, and while it does have a lot to say about competition and greed, the term can somewhat detract from the rawness and realism of the story. It has a very dark comedy about it in the midst of being pretty heavy in parts, and much of this comes down to how natural Chapman and Thomas are in their debut roles. Sean Gilder is also a standout as Kitten, the owner of the scrapyard, and it’s nice to see Gilder snagging a substantial feature role after his fantastic work in various small-screen productions over the years.
Go in prepared, but definitely give The Selfish Giant your time.
The Selfish Giant opens in cinemas Thursday July 31.