* * * 1/2
Set in New Jersey, shot in Belgium and Ireland, helmed by a Dane, starring a mix of Americans, Brits and Irishfolk, based on a graphic novel, and infused with a dark melancholic beauty, I Kill Giants feels nothing if not unique. Cooked in such a diverse pot, the result is strange and darkly beautiful, a slave to no master’s rhythms or rules other than its own. It should be perfect for teen girls who relate to its protagonist, Barbara (Madison Wolfe), a troubled outsider; this film is a troubled outsider, to be approached with appropriate caution. It’s not afraid, of giants, of upsetting you, of facing the dark.
Barbara lives with her brother Dave and older sister Karen (the always brilliant Imogen Poots, who is uncannily believable as Wolfe’s sister) in a wind-swept wooden house on the Jersey Shore. Karen looks after Dave and Barbara; there are no parents around. Barbara is a loner, a high-school outcast with no friends (until she makes one, Sophia, played by a young Brit named Sydney Wade who may very well become a massive star), but who has no time for such trivialities anyway: she must defend her small town against the oncoming invasion of giants from the stormy sea, and when we meet her she is deep in preparation, with traps, rituals and other mystical accoutrements that point to both a highly developed imagination and perhaps some mental health issues.
I’m not sure how old my daughter will need to be to see I Kill Giants – possibly in her early teens – but I’ll be happy to screen it for her when she’s ready, if it seems like her thing. It’s beautifully crafted, supremely well acted (except for the school bully – why, oh why, are bullies always so one dimensional, even in complex films like this?) and seriously moving. Reader, I cried. And not just a little. The tears streamed down my face, and it felt good. A rewarding experience for the right audience, be it teen girl loners or troubled outsiders of any age.