Friendless and alone, spiky weirdo Barbara (Madison Wolfe) knows she’s an awkward freak. She knows no one likes her. And she knows that everything she does looks crazy. But that’s not going to stop from protecting her small coastal New Jersey town from the forces of darkness.

 

Sporting a pair of grimy bunny ears, filthy fingernails and a magical Norse warhamner sheathed in a grubby, pink, heart-shaped handbag, Barbara sees signs and omens everywhere, patrols the town and the local woods, muttering incantations, building and baiting elaborate traps. Because Barbara is a warrior. Barbara finds giants. Barbara hunts giants. And Barbara kills giants.

 

Befriended by English new girl Sophia (Sydney Wade) who’s fascinated by her and her strange quest, Barbara also attracts the attention of sympathetic school counsellor Mrs Molle (a dressed-down Zoe Saldana), who desperately tries to connect with her, worried that the obviously troubled Barbara’s obsessive and antisocial behaviour masks a deeper, darker problem.

 

But a storm is coming and, as fantasy and reality collide, Barbara must confront the grief and pain that drives her even as she is forced to do battle with her greatest opponent yet…
A measured and faithful adaptation of his own 2008 comic book by writer Joe Kelly and directed by Oscar winning Danish director Anders Walters, I Kill Giants is both a compelling coming-of-age tale and a devastating meditation on loss and grief that had me bawling my eyes out. A magical surrealist, punk feminist fantasy that knocks the saccharine A Monster Calls down and steals it’s lunch money, I Kill Giants is bold, exciting and moving but also pleasingly, exhilaratingly, dark and strange, pitting it’s gutsy heroine against high school bullies, vicious Troll Hunter-esque giants and death itself, director Walters keeping the CGI beasts to a sinister minimum and grounding the film in the everyday perils of the mundane while the film’s tone remains ambiguous. Is Barbara just a troubled, lonely little girl, escaping personal tragedy by retreating into a fantasy world of her own invention? Or is she the heroic warrior she believes herself to be, the only thing standing between her peaceful town and destruction? Walters and Kelly manage to both have their cake and eat it.

 

Boasting terrific performances from the almost exclusively female cast (OK, Noel Clarke turns up for one scene as Mrs Molle’s house hubby) Walters and Kelly’s fantasy also refreshingly passes the Infamous Bechdel test, practically all it’s speaking roles filled by women, it’s relationships and conflicts purely female (unless you count the giants?). As the concerned teacher Zaldana is caring and sympathetic and a million light years from Star Trek’s Uhura while Imogen Poots is almost unrecognisable as the exhausted elder sister forced by circumstance into the role of Barbara’s guardian. Leeds-born Sydney Wade shines as Barbara’s sole confidant, every bit as much an outsider as her giant killing friend, torn between defending Barbara and fitting in while Rory Jackson’s school bully Taylor is a fearsome creation, scarier than the mythical beasts Barbara must face.

 

The film belongs however to 15-year-old Madison Wolfe who is just perfect as the troubled, complex Barbara. By turns strong and vulnerable, acerbic and heartbreaking, Wolfe is astonishing, her performance subtle and nuanced, carrying the film. She’s lovable but not immediately likeable. Physically and emotionally awkward, Wolfe’s Barbara is aggressive and judgemental, superior, a bit of a bitch, commenting: “I’m a little mean to people who are dumb. And most people are dumb.” But aside from her habit of poking roadkill (while searching for giant bite marks) and occasionally punching the school psychologist (“I would never hit a teacher; they don’t get paid enough for that abuse. She’s a psychologist!”), Barbara is the hero every misfit kid needs.

 

Dark, funny, scary and ultimately uplifting, I Kill Giants is the movie all our inner tween geeky weird girls have been crying out for.
Movie Review: I Kill Giants
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