Actors: Conner Chapman, Sean Gilder
Director: Clio Barnard
Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
DVD Release Date: April 29, 2014
Run Time: 91 minutes
Neither the material in The Selfish Giant nor the approach by filmmaker Clio Barnard are particularly unfamiliar, and savvy audience members are likely to see the bend in the storyline long before it approaches, but none of this deters from the film’s emotional impact. Even when the narrative appears slightly predictable or contrived, the realism drawn out by Barnard’s ability to direct two spectacular young actors carries The Selfish Giant into higher territory. It is simple debut that immediately brings to mind the work of Ken Loach, effortlessly bringing the audience into the world of two children struggling as outsiders in a poor working class
Loosely adapted from Oscar Wilde’s fable, The Selfish Giant follows the friendship between two troubled 13-year-old boys. Arbor (Connor Chapman) is hyperactive and easily agitated, relying on medication to keep him calm and moderately controllable, though his quiet friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas) seems to do a better job. Swifty is large for his size, but his shy demeanor makes him the less threatening of the pair, as well as the one more likely to be bullied at school. Swifty helps in his friend from emotional agitation, while Arbor defends his much larger friend from any physical attacks.
Due to the poverty of their community, these unlikely friends aren’t permitted much of a childhood, instead spending their free time searching for scrap to sell. Barnard was inspired by two young boys with similar goals that she encountered while filming the documentary, The Arbor (2010). Whether it was this encounter, experience with documentaries, or simply good filmmaking, The Selfish Giant allows us to feel as though we have encountered these characters in similar happenstance. Their struggle feels less contrived because of how realistically they appear to embody these roles, making for some impressive acting for any age performer.
The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as a trailer and cast and crew interviews.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10
Historical Significance: 7.5/10
Special Features: 7/10