The Giant is a story about the last summer that Charlotte (Odessa Young) and her friends will spend together after graduating from high school. The film centers on Charlotte, a girl with an unclear future and an even more mysterious past. The beginning of The Giant shows us how Charlotte is consumed with grief for her deceased mother, and distracted by the fact that her boyfriend has gone missing. Despite these traumas, Charlotte’s best friend Olivia (Madelyn Cline) does her best to make sure that her friend enjoys their last summer together.
We’re given lots of scenes of American teenage summertime revelry: swimming, partying, sneaking drinks, lighting off fireworks. While most of the teenagers are clearly having a good time, Charlotte is serious and withdrawn; it’s obvious that she’s more focused on her thoughts. Charlotte and her friends are hanging out at a dock one night when they hear a scream. Her friends brush it off, saying maybe it’s a fox. Charlotte’s concerned, but her suspicion really sets in when she runs into her old friends Brady and Daphne at a diner. Brady’s covered in dirt, and seeing Charlotte examining him, he explains that he hit a deer. All Daphne says is “she was pregnant”. Other than this, Daphne doesn’t utter a single word during the unnerving scene.
The night of Charlotte’s graduation, her boyfriend returns. That same night Daphne is killed. Another girl is killed in a nearby town, too, and Charlotte has a feeling that the murders are connected. The Giant sets us up for a whodunit mystery, and sadly soon abandons this premise. Charlotte’s dad is a law enforcement officer in town; we think that maybe she’ll work with her father to solve the mysteries, but scenes with him are brief. He laments his frustrations and feelings of helplessness that people are being murdered, but there is no solving of any crimes.
From 30 minutes into The Giant, it becomes clear that the film is not so much about the concrete questions we’ve been presented with (who killed Daphne? What happened to Charlotte’s boyfriend?) but about the more abstract questions that Charlotte is dealing with. The cinematography is oppressively dark. We’re given close-ups of our characters faces, glimmering with sweat as they talk in hushed tones; bright lights glowing in backgrounds that are barely visible.
David Raboy wrote, directed, and edited this film (his first feature), and while The Giant speaks to his vision and aesthetic, the plot is lost to artistry. In trying to set itself apart from most other coming of age films, the film trades in what could have been an intriguing mystery for mysteriousness. The plot is too thin and the dialogue too weak; while it’s intentional that we are left without answers, we’re not left with enough to grasp onto once the film ends to keep us wondering.
Frustrating visuals and cinematography aside, The Giant does keep you wondering right up until the very end. Odessa Young is magnetic as Charlotte, and Madelyn Cline shows promise as Charlotte’s best friend Olivia. Unfortunately, Cline isn’t given much to work with; her character is truly reduced to a supporting role, and we never get to know her. We never really get to know any of the characters very well; while the film is about Charlotte and what’s going on in her head, we don’t get a lot of information about what exactly that is, despite her emotional performance.
Another problem with The Giant is the voiceovers; dialogue begins and continues as voiceover into obscure scenes where we’re not sure if what we’re seeing is a flashback or the present; we’re also not too sure if the conversation is really happening, or if it’s just in Charlotte’s head.
While not without problems, The Giant is an undeniably intriguing story. It’s a different take on the American teenage summer stories that we’re used to. It’s tense, it’s dark, and it’s beautiful. If you’re looking for a different take on the crime/thriller genre, something unique, enigmatic, and artistic, you won’t be disappointed by The Giant.
The Giant comes to digital and on demand November 13.
For another take on The Giant check out our YouTube review.
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