The Selfish Giant is a contemporary fable about 13 year old Arbor (Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Thomas). Excluded from school and outsiders in their own neighbourhood, the two boys meet Kitten (Gilder), a local scrapdealer – the Selfish Giant. They begin collecting scrap metal for him using a horse and cart. Swifty has a natural gift with horses while Arbor emulates Kitten – keen to impress him and make some money. However, Kitten favours Swifty, leaving Arbor feeling hurt and excluded, driving a wedge between the boys. Arbor becomes increasingly greedy and exploitative, becoming more like Kitten. Tensions build, leading to a tragic event, which transforms them all.
The Selfish Giant is Clio Barnard's second feature. Her first was The Arbor, an experimental documentary about Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, which achieved huge critical success and numerous awards.