The British underclass has been so extensively and thoughtfully explored by filmmakers such as Ken Loach and Mike Leigh that even a socially concerned viewer could be forgiven for feeling a little exhausted by the subject. But maybe we just needed a fresh voice.
And now we have one. Clio Barnard’s first feature, The Arbor (2010), was an experimental documentary about working-class English writer Andrea Dunbar. While shooting in Dunbar’s grim West Yorkshire hometown of Bradford, she became fascinated by the local adolescent boys who worked at “scrapping,” gathering and collecting scrap metal—sometimes legally, sometimes not. Such lads are the focus of The Selfish Giant, a drama that takes its title (if not actual story material) from an Oscar Wilde story.