This film was first brought to my attention when I saw some guerrilla marketing in and around Bradford, England, the place in which “The Selfish Giant” was set and filmed. I’m from West Yorkshire so I was interested to see the region represented and was curious about the story too.
Written and directed by Clio Barnard (The Arbor), The Selfish Giant follows the two characters of Arbor and Swifty, two young Yorkshire lads who, after being excluded from their school for fighting, take to the streets in their local area in Bradford and stumble on a scrap dealer named Kitten (Sean Gilder) who puts them to work collecting scrap metal for him, which they can weigh-in and get some money for. Based on the actual occurrence of kids in the region collecting scrap for dealers illegally, the story deals with exploitation, friendship, betrayal and the harsh reality of bad decisions. It is a coming of age tale and a fable, of sorts, set in a realistic setting.
On my first viewing of the film I was hit with how similar a feeling I got from it that I got from “Kes” (dir; Ken Loach) back when I first saw that film years ago. It was a familiar Yorkshire location mixed with performances that felt gritty and realistic, as well as a story that dealt with a young boy finding himself, and had tragic events in his life. Those things are also present in “The Selfish Giant” and if I hadn’t already known who directed this film, I would have thought Ken Loach was behind the camera. That is a compliment to “The Selfish Giant” and I hope more people find a way to see the film, because it truly is a captivating picture that deserves credit for its very solid youth performances.
Conner Chapman, who plays Arbor, is a sparky and hyperactive kid in the film, and does a great job. His first role in anything as an actor, Chapman offers a very authentic performance that doesn’t feel forced at any point. Shaun Thomas, who plays Swifty, is also a first-time actor here, and he offers a good balance to the firework personality of Arbor, as the laid-back and gentle boy who has a passion for horses. These two young men bring a tremendous energy to the screen and deserve a lot of recognition for their work here.
There are some gems coming out of the UK’s independent scene of film and has been for some time. The Selfish Giant joins a long list of British diamonds, films that offer something entirely different than you will never find in another country. New film talent and a director who cares about authenticity, this is one to watch.
The Selfish Giant is available on DVD & Blu-ray now, through Artificial Eye.