The Selfish Giant review

The scenario for this sincere and ultimately affecting drama is one of drabness - two school misfits on a grim Bradford estate bunk off lessons to work for a nasty junkyard merchant. They steal cables off railway lines and purloin other paraphernalia that can be melted down for profit – their chief aim being to work as rag and bone traders with pony and cart.

That description does little justice though to the realistic and heartfelt work that writer-director Barnard has conjured. Despite the cheerless setting The Selfish Giant possesses riches that get under your skin. The performances are so believable, the tone cooly dispassionate yet welcomingly sympathetic, the pacing assured and the atmosphere evocative, that one should really ignore preconceptions and give it a go.

Newcomers Chapman and Thomas as the two schoolmates are marvellous – the former a convincing tearaway, the latter a plausible coward. Their combative camaraderie is what gives this absorbing tale its bite. Thomas's character is skillful with horses. This causes jealousy and oneupmanship to arise with his younger cohort, giving rise to trouble. The lifestyles of these two youths, the problems with their unhappy home lives, and the aggressive, threatening behaviour of their new junkyard boss (Gilder) are brought to life with a freshness that makes one completely involved in their downbeat world. It builds slowly and confidently, Barnard imbuing it with such heart that one comes away rewarded, not depressed. A small gem, intelligently designed and delivered with care.

The Selfish Giant at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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