The Selfish Giant: Heartbreakingly real

SARAH WATT
Last updated 05:00 30/03/2014
The Selfish Giant

GENUINE WARMTH: Connor Chapman, left, and Shaun Thomas as friends Arbor and Swiftly.

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Two terrific kids steal every scene in the superlative The Selfish Giant.

REVIEW: It returns to our screens nearly a year after it packed out the screening I attended at last year's film festival. For audiences who are champing at the bit for quality acting and some social-realism, this is just the ticket.

It's grim up north and director Clio Barnard certainly knows how to paint an authentic portrait of life below the poverty line in this, her first feature film after the critically acclaimed documentary-drama debut The Arbor, which portrayed life on a West Yorkshire housing estate.

Our protagonists are the wiry, hyperactive Arbor (his name unrelated to The Arbor film) and his best friend Swifty whose character is counterpoint to Arbor in every way, as they search for scrap metal in order to raise money to "pay the electric". Again set in Bradford, life is grey and grimy and extremely hard, as evidenced on the faces of all the adults (including a welcome turn from Downton Abbey‘s Miss O'Brien - Siobhan Finneran- playing a contemporary, downtrodden mother).

However, despite the universally hard knocks, there is a glimmer of hope that their lot may improve thanks to Swifty's acuity with gypsy horse racing. But it'll require dodging and dealing to get there.

With intensely natural dialogue, every performance is heartbreakingly real - think the films of Ken Loach, or Mike Leigh when he's not being funny. Aided by stunning cinematography and a knack for pacing, this is effortless film-making which crushes and rewards the viewer in equal measure.

The Selfish Giant (R13) 90 mins

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