The Giant Review
David Raboy’s debut feature is yet another gothic, moody coming-of-age story set in the American south. Initially made as a short back in 2012, The Giant drips with dread and Americana, but quickly runs out of things to say and becomes increasingly convoluted, both in theme and narrative.
Charlotte (Odessa Young) is living the last, humid days of her senior year in high school. Her mother killed herself a year ago and ex-boyfriend Joe (Ben Schnetzel) disappeared or perhaps died under mysterious, uncertain circumstances. Suddenly, Joe returns but young girls also start turning up dead after being brutally murdered, and Charlotte’s already fragile mind starts unravelling. Could Joe be the murderer?
Raboy’s film is visually ambitious and Eric Yue’s cinematography is one of the film’s biggest strengths. There are moments in The Giant that are simply hypnotic, arresting in a manner that makes you want to live inside the sleepy world created by Raboy. Filmed in gorgeous 35mm, there is real texture to its images, but they’re also curiously empty and lack true meaning. Most of the film plays like a series of pretty images without any connective tissue. There’s no context, no emotional grip.
While it’s at times difficult to get on board with Raboy’s intentions, The Giant is also purposely and fascinatingly dreamlike. The difference between dreams, straight up hallucinations and reality is constantly skewed and most scenes happen in almost complete darkness. Many are often only lit by candles or passing streetlights when Charlotte and Joe drive aimlessly in the middle of the night. It’s all very romantic, but also a little naïve. There is a certain beauty to Raboy’s chosen melancholia, but at a stretched 99 minutes, The Giant’s narrative just isn’t substantial enough to carry all of its desired weight.
Young, so captivating in both Shirley and Assassination Nation, turns in another magnetic, mysterious performance as Charlotte. While the script doesn’t allow for much action on Charlotte’s part – she’s peculiarly passive – Young manages to make her compelling nonetheless. It’s never clear whether Charlotte truly is losing her mind, but Young plays her with equal amounts of fear and curiosity, but never hysteria.
Ben Schnetzel is effectively creepy as Joe, often veiled in darkness and hiding in the shadows. He shares impeccable, enigmatic chemistry with Young. Joe’s villainy is always questionable as is his existence - no one else ever encounters him and he only seems to come for Charlotte at the dead of night. It’s a while before Raboy and Yue even reveal his face, signalling not everything is quite as it seems.
Ultimately, The Giant seems more interested in shallow mechanics and undeniably gorgeous visuals, but this is an empty, vain film. Despite the great work by Young and Schnetzel, it lacks a proper narrative which makes it almost impossible to like. There is a certain novelty to its tricks and mood, but it feels more like a concept, an underdeveloped idea rather than a fully fleshed story. Charlotte feels like a different kind of manic pixie dream girl – the kind that requires saving, perhaps mostly from herself.
While Yue’s cinematography certainly elevates Raboy’s clunky script, it’s not enough to make The Giant compelling enough. It feels like the world’s most frustrating puzzle, one where the pieces are so close to fitting together, but never quite do, so you’re left with the prospect of something potentially great right there in front of you that will never materialise.
The Giant is available on demand in the US from November 13.