They may be only kids, but besties Swifty (Shaun Thomas) and Arbor (Conner Chapman) already have several strikes against them. They come from hand-to-mouth households in Northern England, where Swifty’s abusive dad sells the family sofa for spending money, and Arbor hides his Ritalin from a drug-fiend brother. After they’re expelled from school for fighting, the boys take to fencing stolen scrap metal for cash, dragging around copper wire and bike parts via horse-drawn cart. Though they find the thievery thrilling, a grizzly junkyard boss archly named Kitten (Sean Gilder) exploits them to the hilt, offering begrudging acceptance while tempting tragedy.
Clio Barnard’s follow-up to her superb hybrid documentary, The Arbor (2010), is something of a socio-spiritual sequel, this time revisiting the grayscale Yorkshire landscape as a setting for a grim fairy tale featuring a bellowing giant and wee scruffy knights steering chariots past English council flats. Mike Eley’s gorgeously saturated cinematography helps elevate the boys’ struggle into the realm of the heroic, but it’s the two young stars—one a whirlwind and the other a quiet protector—who make this only-slightly tall tale into something towering.
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Cast and crew