It’s pretty clear from the outset that despite the interesting title, the playful trailer and the occasional step into the fantastical, this isn’t a film about giants at all. In fact while other films clamour to this idea that kids are indestructible beacons of hope, I Kill Giants brings them down to earth by diving deep into their fantasies. It might sound overly complicated but this is simple, beautiful storytelling that will leave you a blubbering mess by its conclusion, if you have a heart that is.
I Kill Giants tells the story of Barbara (Madison Wolfe), an acid tongued teenager who tries to get through the school day without ruffling any feathers. At night she pursues her true calling as a giant slayer as she protects her town from the worst kinds of giants. However when people around her begin to make her doubt her night-time activities she has to decide what she really is and what’s real along the way.
I’m sure when many of you were kids you had that one thing that scared you so much you ran from it, usually to a parent or loved one. Someone who could protect you. Barbara runs towards what she thinks she fears and just that fact endears her to you despite everyone else warning you that she is not quite right. Her willingness to sacrifice for others is admirable if not a little misguided. She is a young girl dealing in grown up principles, forced to grow up way too fast.
Her adventures with giants are both a coping mechanism and a way of proving to those around her that she is strong enough to face things alone, she has grown up. The extent to which that is true however is the main crux of the film. This central struggle is gripping and undeniably human, something that Wolfe connects with while she embraces the outlandish while never hiding Barbara’s true pain. Her protective nature, especially with new kid Sophia brings a deeper understanding of her real fears and how they have made her who she is and stopped her from connecting.
Barbara and her whole family are stuck in limbo, a place they don’t want to be but know they can’t escape, not while this ghost lingers over their house in the form of her fantasies, the giants she is constantly facing. Director Anders Walter doesn’t push, he merely guides viewers to an understanding that alludes both the viewer and his characters. It’s delicate filmmaking that never drifts into melodrama despite the content, a tricky balancing act that shows a director at the top of his game, an impressive feat for a debut outing.
What works best however is not the subject matter, not the stellar performances or even the direction but the fact that hidden within the script, an artfully bold piece of storytelling, is a story of contradictions. While we as people use our fantasies as a place to escape, this is a film about tackling them head on, punching back at the uncontrollable in a way that seems acceptable. We have come to see a film, a way of avoiding the everyday things we can’t escape but can postpone for 2 hours, what we get is a story about a girl fighting like hell against the things we can’t.
In a way the film tells us that we shouldn’t be watching it, we should be grabbing life by the horns and never let go. It’s a message you get a lot but rarely does it sink in, all it takes is a twelve-year-old girl and some giants. I might be laying a lot at the films feet, overselling something before you have the chance to see it yourself but this one is a gut punch of a film.
While it seems like a critic must pick out fault in something, I mean I do most of the time, its that special moment where something delivers on every count. I could tell you that there are slow moments because there are, I could say that certain characters are underdeveloped. I mean Barbara has a brother, I think, that’s how little you see him. But this isn’t a story about him, this isn’t a fast paced action thriller. All it’s flaws make sense by its stunning, raw conclusion and personally I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Barbara may or may not kill giants, but she slayed me.