Starring: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots
Director: Anders Walter
Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) has problems. She has no friends and being raised by her older sister means her home life is chaotic. But Barbara has a bigger problem. No one else knows, but her town is being threatened by giants. Giants only she can trap and kill.
While Barbara believes wholeheartedly in the giants that threaten her life and community, we realise that they might be a mask for some insurmountable problem that she can’t bear to face head on, and a guilt that she can’t come to terms with.
Based on a graphic novel, this film has beautiful moments of fantasy and imagination, mixed with the everyday life of a small seaside town. It’s a mix of the everyday, the small, and the fantastic. I loved the costume design, the touches of Nordic magic, the locations, and the way design of the giants. It’s a child’s magical world, threatened by the tragedies of growing up and grown up life.
The heart of the film is Barbara, a bespectacled awkward child, with her own way of dressing, out of step with those around her. Madison Wolfe plays her beautifully, making her both strong and vulnerable. A pugnacious child full of imagination and fire, but who is also genuine and likeable. She delivers some great one liners so beautifully. She’s joined by Zoe Saldana as the school counsellor tasked with getting through to Barbara, and Imogen Poots as her older sister, who tries to nurture Barbara but can’t always find the right way to be close to her.
As we are drawn into Barbara’s world, we learn more about her and how she survives, but what we don’t learn is what Barbara is running and hiding from. It’s a little flaw of the film, because although the movie is full of emotion and genuine feeling, when you don’t know what that feeling is about, it’s harder to invest in it. There are not enough hints and clues dropped. After all the reticence to talk about Barbara’s big secret, the reveal falls a little flat. This reluctance to reveal also means that there are some questions we’d love to know the answer to, but are not explored.
The film is also a little bit too much like A Monster Calls, which is a shame. As it’s adapted from a graphic novel, we know that it’s not a copy or a cash in, but it still feels too similar to feel totally unique.
But all of that said, it’s a really charming and heartfelt story, and Wolfe is a true delight as the odd and snarky Barbara. It’s a film that’s beautiful to watch, and creates a small, childlike world for us to enter into, reminding us of how we all feel sometimes, the way in which we can’t always face our pain and problems head on. Never is this more true than in childhood.
See It If: you ever felt like the odd one out or that the world was a big and scary place. Will please fans of A Monster Calls or other fantasy lovers. Sweet and genuine.