The Selfish Giant (2013)

The Selfish Giant (2013) Poster

Written and Directed by Clio Barnard

Having been lucky enough to see this film at the Gulbenkian Cinema at the University of Kent, where I study, the very campus at which Clio Barnard is a reader for Film Studies, I may be slightly biased in my review of this film, as my pride as a Kent Film student may have swayed my views, slightly. Never the less, this is undoubtedly one of the most moving films I have seen in my life, leaving me sobbing, it is a must see especially as it is an extreme exposé of the poverty that is an everyday occurrence for such families as Arbor’s.

The film follows a young boy, Arbor, whose mother and school struggle to cope with his extreme behaviour caused somewhat by a mix of ADHD and energy drinks. His saviour, it seems, his friendship with his best friend, Swifty, or at least it would be had this film been made with the typical Hollywood storyline and ending in mind. However this is not the case, we are drawn into an unfair world and so are given a true and realistic ending, possibly so that the harsh facts of this kind of life hits home with its audience. The emotion that is forced upon us is not just done so through the plot, but through such technical aspects as the motif of a shot of the Swifty and Arbor holding hands. This signifies the importance of their friendship to both of their lives, in the end this is all these boys seem to have that is certain, by the end the presentation of this motif is a bitter reminder of the reality outside of this film

The most obvious question that arises from the film is not the most obviously answered. Who is the Selfish Giant? The nerdiest answer would be that, after watching the film, the Selfish Giant is society, its unforgiving attitude and lack of help given towards these characters we see portraying Britain’s vast problems with poverty. It could also be Arbor, as he is the main character; however he is forgiven of his lack of consideration for others by the end as he is only a child. It could then be Kitten, an adult who takes advantage of these children in poverty, giving them work, treating them as adults when what they need is parental guidance. This is the choice that many a reviewer and critic have opted for as it is a tangible person who the audience looks to blame, however he is also a victim of circumstance as Arbor is.

It is no surprise that this film has been nominated for many awards, and won them, such as Best Independent Film and Best Director at the BIFAs. It has also been acknowledged for its technical achievements, as the cinematography is also one of the things that stand out as incredibly sophisticated especially considering it is only Barnard’s 1st Feature length film, not including her also acclaimed documentary, The Arbor.

This film is definitely one of my favourite of 2013, and a must watch when it comes out on DVD, I know I’ll be buying it and making everyone I know watch it. This needs to be seen buy as many people as possible, not only due to its unforgiving social commentary, for the political enthusiast in you, but also its sophisticated cinematography, for the film lover in you. For every other side of you there is the incredible characterisation of both Arbor and Swifty who you will both fall in love with and pity, as well as Barnard’s storytelling skills.