Like much of Steven Spielberg’s back catalogue before he hit The Color Purple, Schindler’s List and Amistad, I Kill Giants explores family disintegration beneath the guise of mainstream entertainment.
There is a deep rooted emotional honesty to this film which belies the faery tale title or Harry Potter comparisons. Darkness, dysfunction and fragile family dynamics create a beating heart beneath this modern day fable of teenage rebellion. Adapted by Joe Kelly from his original graphic novel, this screenplay contains layered complexity, narrative twists and solid performances.
A keen eye for atmosphere and tone are necessary if this debut feature from Anders Walter is to be truly appreciated. Grounded by Imogen Poots and Madison Wolfe as sisters Karen and Barbara, Anders is careful to depict a relationship in freefall. Isolated, intelligent but disconnected this teenage anti-hero is more akin to Donnie Darko, while the film itself envelops you creating a sense of unease.
Reminiscent of early Spielberg, I Kill Giants explores family disintegration beneath the guise of mainstream entertainment. Wolfe and Sydney Wade as best friend Sophia are stand outs alongside Poots and a restrained Zoe Saldana. This narrative is more concerned with those things which go unsaid as Saldana and Wolfe bring an adolescent Good Will Hunting vibe to play in their scenes together. That the more fantastical elements are kept in check and a sense of redemption and catharsis is brought about through human breakthroughs is commendable.
This microcosm of Americana feels inherently nostalgic in setting, while the clash of modern day consoles, smartphones and adolescent imagination is subtle. Harry Potter comparisons are only vaguely apparent, as Kelly has managed to give these characters depth without reverting to stereotype, just as Anders has employed the Irish locations economically for maximum impact.
Effective in retaining its sense of mystery I Kill Giants reveals even more on second viewing, as visual cues and whispered supplications from disembodied voices gain resonance. Darker than early Potter incarnations and less glossy than Spielberg-directed comparison pieces, I Kill Giants employs subtlety and suggestion in place of pyrotechnics. Visually and thematically reminiscent of Twilight in its use of washed out colour and small town preoccupations, Walter’s film ranks as a commendable debut feature from a director of note.