A meandering and melancholic story of two boys and one not-so-idyllic summer
From the moment The Giants sparks up with Joy Division’s 'No Love Lost', Belgium-born Bouli Lanners’ story of two teenage brothers and their friend has a rebellious streak to it. Set across one not-so-idyllic summer, Zak (Zacharie Chasseriaud) and Seth (Martin Nissen) have been seemingly abandoned by their mother, left in the countryside at their late grandfather’s house with little cash and no idea when she might return. As Seth so bluntly puts it, 'She doesn’t love us.'
When they bump into local kid Danny (Paul Bartel), a summer of misadventure awaits them – but don’t expect a wholesome re-run of Stand By Me. It starts out with the usual Boys’ Own larks – firing guns, river boat trips and even dyeing their hair blonde. After selling off the furniture, they even hit on a scheme to rent out the grandfather’s house to a local weed dealer named Beef (Didier Toupy) who needs somewhere to grow his gear.
Co-written by Lanners with the film’s costume designer, Elise Ancion, it should be noted that the director is a sometime actor (appearing in everything from Asterix films to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement) and his ability to extract credible performances from his young cast is commendable. If the script veers towards the puerile at times, it also layers the boys’ interactions with a casual melancholy that ensures their antics aren’t quite as buoyant as you first think.
Shot in Luxembourg, while the bucolic surroundings are beautifully photographed (rivers, cornfields and trees just shimmer), they are anything but blissful. One scene, where the boys witness an illicit sexual encounter, offers a rude awakening to a more adult life that they have yet to face. While it certainly meanders at times, even lacking dramatic punch, The Giants still stands tall when it needs to.
Selected release from Fri 13 Jul.