The Selfish Giant (2013 film)

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The Selfish Giant
The Selfish Giant poster.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byClio Barnard
Written byClio Barnard
Based on"The Selfish Giant"
by Oscar Wilde
Produced byTracy O'Riordan
StarringConner Chapman
CinematographyMike Eley
Edited byNick Fenton
Music byHarry Escott
Distributed byIFC Films
Pigment Movie Pictures
Release dates
  • 16 May 2013 (2013-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 25 October 2013 (2013-10-25) (UK)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$943,209[1]

The Selfish Giant is a 2013 British drama film directed by Clio Barnard. It is inspired by the Oscar Wilde short story "The Selfish Giant".[2]


Arbor and Swifty are two teenage boys growing up in a poor and run down area of Bradford in West Yorkshire. Arbor suffers from hyperactivity disorder, which often gets him into trouble even when it is not his intention. When the boys are suspended from school after a fight, they decide to earn money collecting and selling scrap metal. They quickly realize that stealing copper from telecom, railway, and power utilities can be lucrative.

They sell their scrap to a local scrap dealer, Kitten, who owns at least two horses and competes in amateur harness racing. Kitten allows Swifty to work with the horse, once he realizes Swifty's surprising affection for and natural talent with horses. Kitten also lets the boys rent a horse and a cart to collect scrap metal.

Arbor is envious of Kitten's kindness toward Swifty. Arbor decides to steal pieces of scrap from Kitten and sell them, along with some other scrap, to a dealer in Huddersfield. The plan ends up backfiring; Arbor is refused entrance at the other dealer, and when he makes a deal with some men who offer to sell the scrap for him, they recognize it as stolen and keep the money. Kitten finds out and physically intimidates Arbor into stealing a specific piece of high voltage electric power transmission wire to make up for his loss. The boys are not fully aware of the dangers of high voltage wire. Arbor cuts the wire and Swifty helps to lift it, but is electrocuted and killed.

Arbor is devastated and Kitten is arrested, telling the police he is responsible and allowing Arbor to escape blame. Arbor sits resolutely outside Swifty's mother's house. After several rejections, his own mother finds him and takes him home. He refuses any contact by hiding under his bed, until Swifty’s mother finally comes to him.

In a final scene, Arbor takes care of the horse Swifty adored.


Awards and reception[edit]

The Selfish Giant was screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival[3] where it won the Europa Cinemas award.[4] It was also nominated for the 2013 Lux Prize. The film was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[5][6] It won Best Film at the 24th Stockholm International Film Festival in November 2013.[7] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film five out of five stars.[8]

The film was nominated for the 2014 BAFTA for Best British Film.[9]


  1. ^ "The Selfish Giant". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  2. ^ "The Selfish Giant". Film4. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  3. ^ "List of films in Cannes Directors' Fortnight". Cannes. 24 May 2013. Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  4. ^ "Cannes: 'Me, Myself and Mum' Takes Home Two Awards From Directors' Fortnight". Hollywood Reporter. 26 May 2013. Archived from the original on 9 June 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  5. ^ "The Selfish Giant". TIFF. Archived from the original on 9 October 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  6. ^ "Toronto Adds 75+ Titles To 2013 Edition". Indiewire. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  7. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (15 November 2013). "'The Selfish Giant' Wins Best Film at Stockholm Fest". Variety. Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  8. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (24 October 2013). "The Selfish Giant – review". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  9. ^ Youngs, Ian (13 February 2014). "The Selfish Giant hopes to defy Gravity at the Baftas". BBC News. Archived from the original on 14 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.

External links[edit]