Clio Barnard's 'brilliant' fable The Selfish Giant - reviews
Film about scrap dealing teenagers wows critics with its haunting story and brilliant young actors
What you need to know
British drama The Selfish Giant, which opens in UK cinemas today, has won praise for the "astonishingly strong performances" of its untrained young actors.
Director Clio Barnard is best known for her 2010 debut The Arbor, which used recorded interviews to describe the life of troubled dramatist Andrea Dunbar.
Her new film, The Selfish Giant, alludes to Oscar Wilde's children's story of the same name about a giant who builds a wall around his garden to keep children out.
Set in a contemporary housing estate in Bradford, it follows two truanting 13-year-old boys (Arbor and Swifty) as they are drawn into the world of scrap metal dealing. Newcomers Conor Chapman and Shaun Thomas star as Arbor and Swifty.
What the critics like
Barnard's feature is "a brilliant and soul-scouring fable" of outcast generations doomed to forever sift through life's rubbish dump, says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. This hauntingly perfect film has astonishingly strong performances from the two young, untutored leads.
Barnard's poetic and hauntingly beautiful The Selfish Giant will surely go down as a milestone of British film, says Nick Roddick in the Evening Standard. It's a stunningly impressive piece of film-making which stands alongside Ken Loach's Kes as both realistic in its background and poetic in its approach.
This modern folk tale is influenced by Loach's Kes but also has "some of the rebellious romanticism of the French New Wave", says Damon Wise in Empire. The lead is played quite brilliantly by Conner Chapman, a ragamuffin punk kid with the street-smarts of the Artful Dodger and the Beat-poet soul of The 400 Blows's Antoine Doinel.
What they don't like
Barnard's film, which could claim the world record for expleted imperatives ("f**k off you..."), has a reductiveness and "lack of credibility in its portrayal of working-class lives", says Kieron Corless in Sight and Sound. But this is overcome to some extent by the energy of the young performances, particularly Connor Chapman. ·