In a Russian coastal town, Kolya is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man's arrival brings further misfortune for Kolya and his family.
An official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, The Selfish Giant is a contemporary fable about 13 year old Arbor (Conner Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas). Excluded from school and outsiders in their own neighborhood, the two boys meet Kitten (Sean Gilder), a local scrap dealer. Wandering their town with just a horse and a cart, they begin collecting scrap metal for him. Swifty has a natural gift with horses while Arbor emulates Kitten - keen to impress him and make some money. However, Kitten favors Swifty, leaving Arbor feeling hurt and excluded, driving a wedge between the boys. As Arbor becomes increasingly greedy and exploitative, tensions build, leading to a tragic event that transforms them all.Written by
This is a formal interview under caution. Do you understand that, Fenton? Hey, do you understand?
A witness saw two youths burning railway or communications cable.
Michelle 'Shelly' Fenton:
That's nowt to do with him.
Cable theft is a very serious crime, Mrs. Fenton. Trespass on the railway is £1,000 fine.
I ain't been on railway.
Vandalism, endangering lives, maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Michelle 'Shelly' Fenton:
He's just a kid. He ain't nicked no cable. You're looking at wrong place.
He is, as you say, Mrs. Fenton, a minor. There's ...
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Single-handedly puts my faith back in British filmmaking. Powerful, unforgettable.
Since Shane Meadows hit us with phenomenal This Is England in 2007, there's been a dusty spot on the mantle of gritty kitchen sink dramas that truly capture the modern current of low- class British life. Fish Tank has been the only contender since but it doesn't feel like it has stuck as firmly as England, which then spawned several mini-series that I really should watch. Instead, British film seems to be concerned with crowd-pleasers after the roaring but typical success of The King's Speech. BAFTA nominees for Best British Film have been questionable this year, with big budget or mainstream films such as Gravity, Mandela, Philomena, Rush and Saving Mr. Banks, all with big stars on their shoulders. The only exception in the bunch is Clio Barnad's The Selfish Giant, and is the only one that truly deserves the honour. Now that Steve McQueen has stepped firmly into the limelight with the powerful 12 Years A Slave, I must urge that Barnard is the next under-the-radar British voice that needs to be heard.
Loosely based off Oscar Wilde's short story of the same name, Clio Barnard's vision is comparable to a Ken Loach slice-of-life style but rather than the sloppiness and lack of clarity that style can bring, it's startlingly energetic and tight in its delivery. It immediately engages you with its opening scene of a cathartic pounding of rage under a claustrophobic bed then a sincerely moving image of holding hands, all from angry underprivileged boys. It's a rough world depicted here. Conflict is around every corner without exception. Characters step outside and witness kids chased down the street. The harshest swear words are thrown around without much regard for their consequence. It's intimidating, but our characters embrace it and dive in with both feet. It's a world of scroungers, those that see the resale value in everything and abuse that opportunity. It's a bleak life, but the film executes it in such an honest way that it doesn't feel preachy in the way that this is the limits of quality of life and future in the working- class north. Their immoral tunnel vision is one of necessity rather than choice. It's a cruel situation that the film immerses you without comfort.
While there may be a touch of melodrama with the theme of the mother's concern and the pacing it thrives off of seems unnatural, what makes the film work is that it still feels authentic in its performances and script. It's perfectly reflected in its terrific cinematography. It's rough and raw, but it's well-measured in its framing and characters don't get lost in its saturation. The real revelation is its lead performance, Connor Chapman, who gives a genuine and confident performance for his age. Mature, if not sophisticated, beyond his years to be able to take on a brutish character like this with such fearlessness. At first you feel animosity towards him, then a deep pity burrows deeper and deeper. Then the film utterly shatters your heart with its inevitable Shakespearean tragedy making it an unforgettable experience. Any doubts I had about the films power hinges on those fateful final 15 minutes. It may be bleak, but there's a thin ray of hope bursting through the grey clouds. The Selfish Giant single-handedly puts my faith back in British independent filmmaking. I hope this sparks a new era.
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