Film review: The Selfish Giant - grim stuff, but the kids are all right

Dir. Clio Barnard. Starring Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, 91mins (15)

Nominally "inspired by" Oscar Wilde's children's story of the same name, but having a more Dickensian fascination with social deprivation and squalor, The Selfish Giant is about two lads on a dilapidated Bradford housing estate who get excluded from school, and begin stealing metal and riding horses for a local gypsy scrap merchant.

It is proudly in the British social-realist tradition, alongside the films of, for example, Ken Loach. And, as in Loach's 1969 film Kes, which was also set in Yorkshire, and was also about being young and impoverished and written off in life, there is an offer of momentary escape and companionship from the animal kingdom.

But The Selfish Giant is a far grimmer, less hopeful – and, concomitantly, less heartbreaking film. The untrained young actors (Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas) lend it lots of youthful vigour and energy.

But there was never any chance of a redemptive or happy ending. That miserable, self-seeking hopelessness, the film suggests, is what poverty in modern Britain looks like.

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