sat 15/08/2020

The Giants | reviews, news & interviews

The Giants

The Giants

A trio of troubled teens head back to nature in this social realist fairytale from Bouli Lanners

Kidulthood: Martin Nissen and Paul Bartel fend for themselves in ‘The Giants’

It’s hardly incredible for a film to focus on teenagers running wild, not least because teens are such reliably enthusiastic cinema-goers. US cinema in particular is riddled with youthful misbehaviour, with suburban kids coming of age whilst living large in films as variable in quality and tone as Thirteen, Youth in Revolt and Project X. In The Giants, from Belgian director Bouli Lanners (Eldorado), three teens go wild but in a very different way: they’re forced to return to nature as a consequence of parental neglect.

The Giants presents its bleeding heart in the glossy wrapping of a fairytale – like the Dardennes crossed with the Brothers Grimm. And so it goes that once upon a time there were two brothers, 13-year-old Zak (Zacharie Chasseriaud, pictured below right) and 15-year-old Seth (Martin Nissen). Abandoned by their wicked mother, they’re forced to fend for themselves in their dead grandfather’s countryside cottage. There they are joined by a third little pig, Dany (Paul Bartel) who’s fleeing a violent brother, Angel (Karim Leklou), an ironically monikered Neanderthal. When they’re conned into turning over their cottage to a local drug dealer Boeuf (Didier Toupy) the boys take shelter in the surrounding woodlands.

The Giants is in part a boys’ own adventure in the mould of Stand By Me. It touchingly captures the bonds of brotherhood and of friendship and the haphazard thrill of fending for oneself. However these boys aren’t just playing. Authority barely rears its head save a brief glimpse of a police car (which they cunningly evade); there’s no dramatic Moonrise Kingdom-style appearance of social services and their mother isn’t even cast. It seems that no-one will step in to protect these boys from exploitation by a drug dealer and his house-clearing cronies. These harsh realities are set against the lushest of landscapes, making for a satisfying contrast and one that’ll be a familiar pleasure for fans of Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff), along with the aforementioned Dardennes (The Kid with a Bike).

Boeuf should be the big bad wolf in human form. Though he leaves the rough stuff to his attack dog Angel he certainly boasts a fearsome, carnivorous nickname - supposedly from his time working in an abattoir. He arrives on screen preceded by his almost certainly fallacious reputation (the associated folklore has it that he’s killed a man). Despite the boys’ fearful reaction to his appearance, the reveal shows him to be a scrawny and rather pathetic opportunist; unfortunately their extreme vulnerability makes them a target regardless. There is however a glimmer of hope in the appearance of a saintly elderly woman and her disabled daughter.

The Giants for the most part enthrals and impresses, it’s lovingly shot and in its young leads Lanners has found three highly capable young performers who are as fresh, captivating and natural as their surroundings. They’re shown to be good kids perpetually thwarted. Yet the film’s very manner means there’s a tendency to over romanticise the boys’ plight and, though convincing and charismatic, they somewhat lack the hard edge that their circumstances might have plausibly cultivated. In addition, at a mere 75-minutes it’s simply too slight. Lanners’ social realist fairytale is one to fleetingly cherish, but possibly not one to remember.

  • The Giants is in selected cinemas today

Watch the trailer for The Giants

The Giants presents its bleeding heart in the glossy wrapping of a fairytale

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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