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Review: Clio Barnard’s Powerful & Authentic Award-Winner ’The Selfish Giant’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 19, 2013 6:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
We meet Arbor, the troubled young protagonist of Clio Barnard’s second feature “The Selfish Giant" in claustrophobic close-up as he hammers his fists in incoherent rage against the underside of the bed beneath which, we gather, he tends to retreat in times of stress. The violence subsides suddenly though, as he is coaxed out of his hiding place and out of his fit of anger, by big, soft Swifty, his best (only) friend, with whom Arbor shares a certain marginalization -- Arbor is being medicated for an unspecified antisocial disorder; Swifty is bullied and taunted for his traveller background. Marking the shift from verbal and physical violence and harshness, to a sort of grounded lyricism (a shift the film makes successfully time and again), this squally opening scene ends with a calm detail of the boys’ clasped hands, which we will return to later in different and wrenchingly tragic circumstances.

Karlovy Vary Review: Clio Barnard’s ’The Selfish Giant’

  • By Jessica Kiang
  • |
  • July 5, 2013 10:30 AM
  • |
  • 1 Comment
We meet Arbor, the troubled young protagonist of Clio Barnard’s second feature “The Selfish Giant" in claustrophobic close-up as he hammers his fists in incoherent rage against the underside of the bed beneath which, we gather, he tends to retreat in times of stress. The violence subsides suddenly though, as he is coaxed out of his hiding place and out of his fit of anger, by big, soft Swifty, his best (only) friend, with whom Arbor shares a certain marginalization -- Arbor is being medicated for an unspecified antisocial disorder; Swifty is bullied and taunted for his traveller background. Marking the shift from verbal and physical violence and harshness, to a sort of grounded lyricism (a shift the film makes successfully time and again), this squally opening scene ends with a calm detail of the boys’ clasped hands, which we will return to later in different and wrenchingly tragic circumstances. It’s a gripping beginning to this passionately felt and astonishingly acted film, which shares a lot of DNA with the modern British social realist movies of Barnard’s contemporaries Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay.

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