‘The Selfish Giant’ shares its title with an Oscar Wilde children’s tale, but this unflinching, moving story of two Bradford boys who steal copper, illegally race ponies and flirt worryingly with danger all day long is rooted in a very real, modern Britain. It unfolds in a world of rundown housing estates backing on to open fields punctuated by cooling towers and electricity pylons. But for all its stark realism, it has a touch of myth to it too, and it’s lyrically shot.
It’s fronted by two scrappy teens, Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas). They’re both trying to force an entry into the adult world, kicking and screaming: Arbor is younger but louder and quicker to lash out; Swifty is older, more reserved. Both come from tough homes and school has given up on them. A scrap dealer, Kitten (Sean Gilder), exploits their energy and naivety by buying stolen goods from them. You know it could end badly.
‘The Selfish Giant’ feels a bit like one of those doomy 1970s and ’80s public information films, but one filmed by Ken Loach and scripted by a poet not a bureaucrat. The Loach nod is obvious; this is ‘Kes’ revisited in a post-Thatcher northern England. That film looked at a boy and a bird; here it’s two boys and a pony. There’s a similar contrasting of rural beauty and man-made ugliness.
Loach, too, has always been great with young actors, and Chapman and Thomas are both revelations, raw and compelling. It’s not a pretty story, but its warmth lies in its fondness – love, even – for the two boys at its heart.
Cast and crew
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3.1 / 5
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I thought this film was very well acted, and directed. Once the plot reaches it climax, no pot spoiler here, I opened my mouth in wonder. It had been so well acted, so well directed, and all round a fine film to watch, that I really CARED about the characters. This is the acid test of a film for me - do I care about the characters, do I want to know what is going to happen.? This is recommended.
The child actors are superb, the cinematography is lyrical, the respect for Ken Loach is obvious, and yet.... Something's missing. It's like a southerner's view of the grim north and seems to lack an authentic voice.
A wonderful but rather depressing tale of social and economic hopelessness amongst Bradford's poorest community..An obnoxious kid who has self destructive tendencies has just one friend,who is rather more of a gentler caring person,but is influenced by the other.Yje adults are abrasive and vicious as is the child.It is gritty social realism 1970s style.The problem for me was the complete lack of any morality from anyone,the complete lack of tenderness.It depresses you without anything to console you.the viewer.the misery is perhaps a bit overdone,but this is still remarkable film making and sets itself apart from the dross that is modern day cinema..
At first this film seems to come on a bit Ken Loach by numbers - tearaway kids nick cabling in sweary, deprived envirnment - but builds in its breadth, depth and power to match Loach at his best and pip others like Fish Tank covering similar territory. The kids seek adult status and recognition in the romanticised men's world of the scrapyard, also driven by the need to find cash to keep the parents' bailiffs fron the door. Arbor's cockiness, and his whole social world, is then blown apart.and turned upside down. The two young leads are outstanding with a strong supporting cast. Don't miss!