Director: Bouli Lanners
Cast: Zacharie Chasseriaud, Martin Nissen, Paul Bartel
Running Time: 86 min
Release: 13 July
While not much happens in The Giants, three brilliant performances and some wonderful cinematography make for a film that’s more than worth 86 minutes of your time. Zak and Seth (Chasseriaud and Nissen) have been left alone by their mother for the summer in their grandfather’s old house. With a small amount of money and no restraint on their freedom, they do what anyone in their situation would; whatever the hell they want. They joyride, get wasted and overall just have fun, accompanied by the similarly abandoned Dany (Bartel). Zak and Seth slowly cop on to the fact that their mother isn’t coming back anytime soon, and that they have to make some money. Clearly, the most sensible way to do so is to rent the house out to local weed farmer Beef. From here things go from bad to worse to worse still, with the boys’ naivete exploited by almost everyone around them, and none of the apparent bright spots being anything other than stops along the way to forced independence.
With most coming of age dramas, the characters are wrapped in such innocence that the audience can rest easy in the knowledge that eventually someone will guide them towards their inevitable success. The Giants is cut from a different, more realistic cloth. Much like Stand By Me—which is given a very fond acknowledgement in one lovely scene by a bonfire—all they really have is each other. With friends like these three though, you sense that anyone would be okay.
Zak is the youngest and boldest, with his confidence and capability belying the fact that he’s utterly clueless about how to get by without his mother, who he’s constantly trying to contact. Seth, the de facto leader, is quiet and reserved where Zak is brash and confident, he leads only because he knows Zak will get them into far more trouble. Filling out the trio is Dany, seemingly the oldest, but far more naive and suggestible than the others, but the source of the biggest laughs as a font of ‘knowledge’ about the rest of the world. Charming as his ignorance is, he’s also clearly the most damaged, sporting bruises from his horrible older brother for most of the film.
Light on story with a preference for leave exposition to the imagination, director Bouli Lanners knows he needs little more than the three lead performances and some gorgeous cinematography of the woods and rivers of the Belgian countryside. The former triumphs on the believability of the friendships, brilliantly sold through their banter—the same ridiculous nonsense preteen guys have been talking about since the year dot. The cinematography reflects Lanners’ previous career as a painter to great effect, with the composition and lighting of the outdoor scenes as vivid and beautiful as anything ever seen on film.
The lack of narrative action in The Giants means that, even with its short runtime, it drags a little in places. But what it lacks in story it more than makes up for in execution, with a fantastic depiction of brotherhood and a huge array of gorgeous Belgian scenery.