The Selfish Giant

Critics 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.



Reviews Counted: 83

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,928


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.9/5

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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 hurt and excluded, driving a wedge between the boys. Arbor becomes increasingly greedy and exploitative, becoming more like Kitten. Tensions build, leading to a tragic event, which transforms them all.

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Conner Chapman
as Arbor Fenton
Ian Burfield
as Mick Brazil
Siobhan Finneran
as Mrs. Swift (Swifty's Mother)
Steve Evets
as Price Drop (Swifty's Dad)
Rebecca Manley
as Shelly Fenton
Rhys McCoy
as Daniel
Elliott Tittensor
as Martin Fenton
Ralph Ineson
as Johnny Jones
Everal A. Walsh
as Railway Man
John Wall
as School Nurse
Jamie Michie
as Teacher
Bailey Clapham
as Swift Children
Jake Gibson
as Swift Children
Sofina-Rose Hussain
as Swift Children
Peter-Lee Lowther
as Swift Children
Aron Ryan
as Swift Children
Macy Shackleton
as Swift Children
Patrick McCann
as Neighbour
Dougie Rooks
as Deputy Headteacher
Reece Andrews
as Headteacher
James Fox
as Passerby
Kayle Stephens
as Chip 'n' Pin Sulky Rider
Michael Cahill
as 'Smart Price Drop' Man
Paul Chapman
as Caretaker
Beverly Higgins
as School Secretary
Harry Calvert
as Scrap Yard Worker
Robert Hudson
as Power Station Worker
Rob Snell
as Power Station Worker
Max Smith
as Power Station Worker
Chris Yates
as Power Station Worker
Vicki Hackett
as WPC Hayward
Robert Emms
as Phil the Barman
Tim Paley
as Driver
David Peel
as Huddersfield Scrapyard Man
Joshua Haase
as Policeman
Simon Hearn
as Policeman
Mark Pitts
as Policeman
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News & Interviews for The Selfish Giant

Critic Reviews for The Selfish Giant

All Critics (83) | Top Critics (27)

  • Though they share the same title, director Clio Barnard's bewitching follow-up to The Arbor bears little cosmetic similarity to the fluorescent idyll of Oscar Wilde's 19th century children's fable.

    Aug 18, 2015
  • Barnard's work with these two child actors is extraordinary, and she has written a lean script.

    Aug 4, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • "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.

    Feb 19, 2014 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    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.

    Jan 23, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Ultimately, it's a sad, tough sit - but worth seeing for its gritty honesty and strong cast.

    Jan 16, 2014 | Rating: 3/4
  • 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.

    Jan 13, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Selfish Giant

Barnard displays an incredibly firm hand in the direction of this powerful piece of British social realism that brings to mind the works of Ken Loach and is above all a rich character study with a great onscreen chemistry between the excellent Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


'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.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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