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The Selfish Giant 2013 ***

Writer and director Clio Barnard’s modern day fable is a stark depiction of a working class childhood in Britain’s West Yorkshire, with Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas) taking on the boy’s exploits lead to a shocking end. Following up on her similarly bleak The Arbor, Barnard makes something magical but also depressing from her Bradford setting, coaxing dangerous and illegal work harvesting scrap metal and wire for an unscrupulous dealer. This set up can only lead to tragedy, and The Selfish Giant offers a powerful punch when naturalistic performances from the boys, but also staging notably lyrical set pieces including a horse and cart race that stop the narrative from becoming maudlin. The Selfish Giant takes inspiration from Oscar Wilde’s children’s story, but it’s an involving and disturbing parable in its own right.


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