In this current batch of releases, it’s not hard for a film about a young girl with a wild imagination to get lost among the weeds but stick with it and you might find something worthwhile. Written by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura, based on their graphic novel of the same name and directed by Oscar-winner Anders Walter, who won for his 2013 short film Helium. The young girl in question being Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) who we follow for a short while as she struggles with daily life, using a fantasy life of magic and monsters to escape. Also starring: Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Sydney Wade, Jennifer Ehle and a very brief appearance of Noel Clarke.
Upon opening, despite its very American, Long Island setting there’s an almost British quality to what’s unfolding before you, the visuals and atmosphere don’t have that shiny, too perfect quality that’s too often found with American stories. However, a quick IMDB fact check will give you an explanation of that, having been filmed primarily in Belgium and Ireland, even though that may create a slight inconsistency, in this case it gives the film more of a real-world sympathy, which is no disadvantage.
Following a teen with an over active imagination in a time of struggle, it’s hard not to draw parallels to J. A. Bayona‘s A Monster Calls and if you were only to give it a quick glance, you might not discover that in spite of that initial connection, these stories have different paths to follow. I Kill Giants takes the fork of the road that isn’t the sombre, heart-breaking journey but rather following its sense of curiosity and adventure; a celebration of good old fashioned childhood imagination, a child not lost to technology which is a veritable rarity today. It feels like a throwback to fondly remembered moments of childhood, chasing monsters and creating worlds out of nothing, made for a generation that has been lost online and could benefit from being reminded there’s much more to be enjoyed that can’t be found in an iPhone (and no chasing Pokémon does not count).
Barbara is wonderfully played by Madison Wolfe, whom you may recognize from the first series of True Detective, her appearances in Trumbo, Joy and Keanu but what you may not immediately recognize, is her breakout (but fairly underappreciated) turn as the terrifying and equally terrified, Janet in The Conjuring 2. Barbara may be the slight cliché character of the different girl who’s bullied while dealing with troubles at home but Wolfe holds her own and gives audiences a character that’s engaging and sympathetic. There’s a charming innocence, not only to her character but to the film as a whole, helped by an intimate direction from Walters and beautiful cinematography from Rasmus Heise of the bleak yet entrancing landscapes that surround their characters.
As the story unfolds, you can feel the moral of the tale taking shape quite quickly, reminding audiences that everyone has something that makes them different in their own way, that we’re all outsiders in some form; and that each of us have different ways of facing the reality we find ourselves in. A message that is in no small way supported by Saldana‘s character of the school shrink Mrs. Mollé, in an understated role for this blockbuster regular but she does get a chance to throw her emotional range into the mix. You couldn’t round out a review without at least referencing Wade‘s new girl to town and Barbara’s only friend, Sophia; she’s the classic big-hearted newbie who may not fully understand Barbara’s unusual activities but she’s curious and wants to help, it may be a somewhat typical performance but she has plenty to contribute.
I Kill Giants faces that time in everyone’s life where you haven’t yet reached the capability to deal with the bigger issues but given no choice, you just do the best you can to deal with what’s ahead. Releasing just weeks after A Wrinkle in Time, it’s great to see another young female hero taking to the big screen, in a more indie package this time around. It’s a film that showcases good old-fashioned imagination, it’s charming, curious and captivating but most of all, hopefully won’t be a release which is judged much too quickly as if you give it a chance, it just might surprise you.
Watch the trailer below and I Kill Giants is in cinemas 6 April and on Digital 4 May