29th Jan2014

‘The Selfish GIant’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder, Ralph Ineson, Ian Burfield, Lorraine Ashbourne, Elliott Tittensor, Siobhan Finneran | Written and Directed by Clio Barnard


There is something disarming about stories that deal with childhood friendships, especially ones that are filmed close to where you live.  The Selfish Giant was filmed around the city of Bradford, so there is a familiarity to the landscapes that I see in the movie as I live there.  What is more effective is the natural acting of two boys plucked out of obscurity showing a friendship that is all too real and all too painful at the end.

The Selfish Giant is based on an Oscar Wilde short story, and after watching the film you’ll find yourself wanting to read the tale to compare the two.  For the film though it tells the story of Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas).  Brought together as outsiders of the society they find themselves kicked out of school and looking for something to do.  Trying to make some money to ease the hardships of their parents they find their way to a scrap yard controlled by Kitten (Sean Gilder) who not only offers them a means to gain money through stealing copper wiring but also access to his horse and cart.  Swifty shows a fondness of horses and an understanding of how they should be treated, leading Kitten to use him as a rider in illegal races.  This pushes the two boys apart, leading to consequences both unforgettable and tragic.

The Selfish Giant is a film that after the first viewing you may never want to see again, this is not because it’s bad, but because of the effective way it makes you care for the two boys and be charmed by their friendship.  The standout performance though has to be Conner Chapman as Arbor, although the Swifty character could easily be the main focus, we follow Arbor and feel his pain as his friendship with Swifty is threatened.  Chapman’s performance as Arbor is both mesmerising and impressive as you never question if this child is anybody other than his character.  He’s aggressive and protective, with behavioural problems caused by his suffering from ADHD, but for those he cares for he’ll do anything.  This is why the end of the movie is devastating as the watcher, with even the most hardened heart-broken by the events that take place.

The setting for The Selfish Giant shows a lot about the United Kingdom and the state it’s in, where people will do what they can to survive and many are suffering, especially in Northern towns, and It’s fitting that we see some of the cast from the UK version of Shameless star in it.  We can listen to the government on the news say every day that the economy is improving and our lives are becoming easier to live, but for those actually surviving through the constant cuts and barrage of attacks on the society we live in by the caring party known as the Conservatives it’s hard to believe what they say, and in truth there is not a lot they can say to make us believe they are doing the right thing for us.  Enough of my political rambling though, the point is that The Selfish Giant shows a life for the two friends where they are put at the bottom of society and if anything do what they can to make their families lives better, and we see where it takes them.

The Selfish Giant is a movie that I will watch again, though I can understand how some may choose not to, it is a hard movie to watch.  The most powerful and memorable films are the ones that truly effect you though and not only make you feel but make you care too.  If The Selfish Giant manages to do one thing it’s to make you care about two boys who have a friendship that is all too real, through the good times and the hard and just as in Oscar Wilde’s short story it’s when we let this friendship into our hearts that the story will truly affect us.

The Selfish Giant is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek.com

Comments are closed.