Adelaide Film Festival – The Selfish Giant

As frequently happens with movies that are ‘based on’ books or other stories, I failed to see how Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant bore any real resemblance to the gorgeous Oscar Wilde fairytale of the same name. Perhaps that is because I was too busy sobbing into my tissues through the whole film.

A bleak, despairing film set in a housing estate in the north of England, The Selfish Giant makes you want to go home and hug your children and be grateful for your comfortable life. ‘Problem child’ Arbor (played magnificently by the young Conner Chapman) is ‘excluded’ from his school after one too many incidents of insolence and hysteria. Uncontrollable by his desperate mother (Rebecca Manley), Arbor starts to hang around the scrapyard of brutal Kitten (Sean Gilder). Arbor’s impressionable, kind-hearted friend Swifty (a heartbreakingly good Shaun Thomas) joins in Arbor’s plots to make money for their mothers in any way possible.

The cinematography in this film is wonderful, albeit devastating. I admit that I could not stand the film – but that is only because it was so terrible to watch the misery, desperation and ultimately tragedy that befalls families who started off with very few options and slide into a world of even fewer. The film itself is well shot, well directed and well acted. If you can handle a heartbreaking couple of hours, get along and see it. Bring the tissues. And whatever you do – do NOT bring your children along. Despite the fairytale title, this is a nightmare of reality.


*Repeat screening Sunday 20 October at 9.15pm

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