The Selfish Giant (2013)

The Selfish Giant
Director: Clio Barnard
Writer: Clio Barnard
Based on: Oscar Wilde‘s short story (very loosely)
Cast: Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder, Lorraine Ashbourne, Steve Evets, Siobhan Finneran
Part of: Viennale

Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas) are best friends, despite Arbor being hyperactive and Swifty being the calmest person. By chance they get into scrap collecting (and stealing) for Kitten (Sean Gilder) . When Arbor is kicked out of school, he thinks that it’s a viable alternative. Swifty is more hesitant but goes along with it mostly because he’s drawn by Kitten’s horses. But it’s a generally volatile situation.

The Selfish Giant was absolutely fantastic. Atmospheric, great cast, wonderful setting and I cried my eyes out. Man, how I cried. Wow.


The Selfish Giant is one of my favorite Wilde stories, so I was curious to see how it would be transplanted in this setting. I have to say, though, that the movie doesn’t have much to do with the story anymore, apart from a few parallels and the absolutely devastating effect both have on me.

It was quite obvious straight from the beginning that things wouldn’t end well. But the story and especially the boys were so engaging that it wasn’t even possible for me to get my defenses up and so I pretty much cried my way through the entire thing.

The Selfish Giant film still

Barnard chose a great setting, at once grounded in realism and with a certain fairy-tale-esque medieval quality to it. That children would have to go scrap collecting, with horses to boot, seems like it should be ancient history – but it isn’t and that juxtaposition makes for a fascinating forcefield to set a movie in.

Both boys were absolutely fantastic and had no problems carrying the film. You start loving them the minute they show up and it never really stops, despite whatever stupidity they commit. That and their friendship is what makes the movie positively magical.


Summarizing: See it. Definitely.


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