Barbara, the preteen protagonist of this earnest work of empathy, played by newcomer Madison Wolfe, is one of those troubled free spirits who channels her anxieties into flights of fancy that threaten to spin out of control. She wanders forests and beaches with a pair of rabbit ears on her head and clutching an old, worn purse, gathering mushrooms and laying bait for giants, which she believes exist. As the title of this movie, adapted from a graphic novel, suggests, Barbara thinks it is her mission to slay these creatures, and even though the director, Anders Walter, depicts them on screen, the viewer is constantly reminded by other elements in the story that they represent something darker in Barbara’s unconscious.
It takes a while for the reason behind Barbara’s anxieties to reveal itself, and in the meantime we have to contend with the girl’s actual life situation, which includes a house full of boys glued to video games (none of which seem to feature giants) and an older sister (Imogen Poots) who runs everything and, thus, is charged with keeping Barbara from falling apart or disappearing. She has a new friend named Sophia (Sydney Wade), who for some unexplained reason is from the UK (the movie’s setting appears to be Long Island), and is attended to at school by a counselor (Zoe Saldana) who tries her best to address Barbara’s demons without scaring the girl off.
These various plot points conspire to make I Kill Giants a fairly compelling study of adolescent unease, but the movie can’t quite shoulder the burden of its confused and often trite exposition. It’s like way too many other movies and stating the names of those movies would only reveal the source of Barbara’s psychic pain, though I guessed it as soon as the movie stepped into her home. What the film has going for it is its juxtaposition of real and fantastical elements, but Walter obviously wants it to be a probing drama about despair and how an unformed personality copes with it. He brings nothing new to the subject.
Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Chanter (050-6868-5001).
I Kill Giants home page in Japanese.
photo (c) I KIll Giants Films Ltd. 2017