There’s a saying in the industry that, to save yourself a ton of stress, you should never work with kids or animals. Director Clio Barnard disregards this old way of thinking as she incorporates a variety of horses and casts newcomer Connor Chapman, 13, as her protagonist in the British independent drama, The Selfish Giant. If there was any sort of risk involved, Barnard will be pleased to know that her film, based on the Oscar Wilde novel (aptly titled The Selfish Giant) is receiving praise for its stunning cinematography of the realistic depiction of an English working-class borough. So far, this is the breakout film of the festival.

The Selfish Giant  is a powerhouse of a film, a huge success as Clio Barnard’s first narrative.

Chapman plays 12-year-old Arbor, an angelic looking boy born into rough living conditions. He suffers from ADHD and is constantly trying to engage himself, but finds trouble wherever he goes. His best outlet is collecting scrap metal from the sides of the road with his friend Swifty, played by 15-year-old Shaun Thomas, a fellow first-time actor. The boys are desperate to make money for their families, both of which are struggling to pay the bills. Although it’s not much, Arbor’s eyes widen as he realizes the potential in scrap collecting. This desperation ultimately makes for a difficult ending, one that is foreshadowed throughout the film but still comes as a shock (no pun intended).

The Selfish Giant is a powerhouse of a film, a huge success as Clio Barnard’s first narrative. The depiction of social realism is beautifully portrayed through the cinematography and art direction, and the performances that come from the child actors can only be described as breathtaking. It is a heavy film for such a small boy to carry, but Conner Chapman makes it look easy. The Selfish Giant comes highly rated, a definite must see for its’ inevitable widespread release.