The Selfish Giant (2013)



Critic Consensus: Starkly emotional and beautifully directed, The Selfish Giant uses a lovely script and some powerful performances to present some of the best that modern British cinema has to offer.

Movie Info

THE SELFISH GIANT is a contemporary fable about 13 year old Arbor (Conner Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas). Excluded from school and outsiders in their own neighborhood, the two boys meet Kitten (Sean Gilder), a local scrapdealer - the Selfish Giant. They begin collecting scrap metal for him using a horse and cart. Swifty has a natural gift with horses while Arbor emulates Kitten - keen to impress him and make some money. However, Kitten favors Swifty, leaving Arbor feeling … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Clio Barnard
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 29, 2014
Box Office: $12.2k
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as Arbor Fenton

as Mick Brazil

as Mrs. Swift (Swifty's...

as Price Drop (Swifty's...

as Shelly Fenton

as Daniel

as Martin Fenton

as Johnny Jones

as Railway Man

as School Nurse

as Teacher

as Swift Children

as Swift Children

as Swift Children

as Swift Children

as Swift Children

as Swift Children

as Neighbour

as Deputy Headteacher

as Headteacher

as Passerby

as Chip 'n' Pin Sulky R...

as 'Smart Price Drop' M...

as Caretaker

as School Secretary

as Scrap Yard Worker

as Power Station Worker

as Power Station Worker

as Power Station Worker

as Power Station Worker

as WPC Hayward

as Phil the Barman

as Driver

as Huddersfield Scrapya...

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Passerby
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Critic Reviews for The Selfish Giant

All Critics (73) | Top Critics (20)

"The Selfish Giant" is a story of dependence, damage and desperation, told with grit and grimy frankness. It's also a portrait of friendship born of need and emptiness, on the road to nowhere.

Full Review… | February 19, 2014
Detroit News
Top Critic

Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant isn't the Oscar Wilde children's story, but more an inspired take on it in the kitchen-sink style of a Ken Loach drama.

Full Review… | January 23, 2014
Toronto Star
Top Critic

Ultimately, it's a sad, tough sit - but worth seeing for its gritty honesty and strong cast.

Full Review… | January 16, 2014
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Much of the movie is hard to bear, yet it never drags, thanks to the momentum that Barnard finds in the fable, and, above all, to the energy that she unleashes in her young leads.

Full Review… | January 13, 2014
New Yorker
Top Critic

[A] wrenching story of working-poor desperation in northern England.

Full Review… | January 9, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The Selfish Giant is a film of such power and beauty that there will be no escaping it -- so long as you go to see it in the first place.

Full Review… | January 3, 2014
The New Republic
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Selfish Giant


'The Selfish Giant'. The sucker punch of that first beautiful frame to the relentless bleakness that follows is cruel. Miserable, masterful.

Outstanding, gritty performances from first-timers, and a director whose future I will follow eagerly, given the worlds she seems to want to delve into.


Super Reviewer


Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

In an attempt to calm down his best friend Arbor(Conner Chapman), Swifty(Shaun Thomas) takes him for a midnight ride on a horse. Along the way, they steal some copper cable which utility workers had already appropriated for their own profit and sell it to Kitten(Sean Gilder), a scrap dealer. That money comes in handy for the truancy fine Arbor's mother(Rebecca Manley) has to pay. However, she does not become fully suspicious until the boys try to wash their own clothes. That is not the end of their troubles as Arbor is expelled from school for defending Swifty from a group of bullies who in turn is suspended for ten days.

Written and directed by Clio Barnard, "The Selfish Giant" is an exacting, beautifully filmed and timeless tale of an upside down world where children attempt to take care of the adults, aging too quickly in the bargain. A sign of this is industrial decay resulting in the desperation that leads to people like those in Detroit stripping the infrastructure of whatever is not nailed down. Even with all of that going on, Swifty finds his opportunity from the most unlikeliest of sources. The tragedy of Arbor who is both hero and villain is that he never stops long enough to consider all the ramifications of his actions.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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