‘The Selfish Giant’ is a mildy bizarre twist on the kitchen sink drama

Christopher gives one of the great kid performances in Clio Barnard's "The Selfish Giant." Credit: IFC Films
Connor Chapman gives one of the great kid performances in Clio Barnard’s “The Selfish Giant.”
Credit: IFC Films

‘The Selfish Giant’
Director: Clio Barnard
Stars: Connor Chapman, Shaun Thomas
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

There’s possibly no way to follow up a feature debut as original as “The Arbor,” English filmmaker Clio Barnard’s experimental documentary. That film dug into the tumultuous life of working class playwright Andrea Dunbar — and the damaged children she left behind — in a most unusual way: it took recorded interviews and had them mouthed by actors pretending to be them. It takes awhile to get used to how deceptively ordinary her sophomore feature is, namely that it’s a kitchen sink drama in the Ken Loach mould. (It even shares some of the same actors, including Steve Evets.)

But it’s not exactly stock. Returning to overcast Dunbar, England of “The Arbor,” it even features a character named Arbor, namely the young pup played by Connor Chapman, in what instantly becomes one of the great kid performances. Both he and pal Swifty (Shaun Thomas) are precocious yet childlike children with little to do but get involved into the local scrap metal black market biz. It’s set in the modern day, but much of “The Selfish Giant” — very loosely based on the Oscar Wilde short story — plays like a “Mad Max” entry, with old-fashioned horse races and a vaguely post-apocalyptic feel.

Stylistically, Barnard doesn’t bewilder as she did with her debut; it’s your typical hand-held approach to true grit. But the mix of elements creates a time-warpy quality made all the more bizarre by how casually realistic it’s played. It’s a deep wallowing in a very specific and sometimes surreal microcosm, one with no lack of terrific names, including a menacing scrap metal lord named Kitten (Sean Glider). It doesn’t whack you upside the head like “The Arbor,” but it does sneak up behind you.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…