‘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

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

GAMES Hudson Common Open Aug. 21, 7 p.m. Hudson Common 356 W. 58 St. Free, www.hudsoncommonnyc.com The U.S. Open begins on Monday, but most of…

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…