Why this fascinating film pushes the right buttons

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Can I Kill Giants make the painful process of adolescence any more relatable for its teenage audience?

Teenage girls often have very little to go on when it comes to finding a relatable role model on the silver screen, especially in the fantasy genre.

Batman, Superman, Spider-Man: the clue is in the name for where the gender balance falls when it comes to how we portray strength and bravery, while women are left to take on the role of the villainess or sidekick, often scantily clad at that.

When Gal Gadot brought us the fearless Wonder Woman last year, however, it felt like the tide was turning for a wave of gutsy women to follow.

But despite the strong performance, the fantastical portrayal of womanhood at its best was lacking something essential for teen girls: the pressures of real life, and of growing up.

From making friends – or not making them – to not being afraid to be yourself, we all remember being a teen, and all those social pressures and norms we forced ourselves to follow in an effort to fit in.

It’s a topic that the upcoming I Kill Giants, set for release on 5th April, tackles with gusto.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name by author Joe Kelly and artist J M Ken Niimura, the story follows social misfit Barbara Thorson, an introverted teenager just trying to survive the friendless years of high school and a difficult home life.

To escape her reality, she retreats into a fantasy world of magic and monsters in which she is a giant-slaying heroine.

When her imaginary life begins to bleed into real life, she’s forced to confront the things she was trying to escape all along.

For actress Imogen Poots, who plays Barbara’s sister Karen, the collision of imagination and reality lead to a very powerful message for young girls seen through the eyes of the main character.

“It’s pretty rare to find a movie with so many female roles,” she reflected in an interview with avclub.com.

“Movies in general are essential in the sense of helping us understand the world and the human condition, and this is a wonderful meditation on what the imagination can do.

“It accords a higher status to the notion of your inner strength,” she added. “It’s a great thing to remember not to get too neurotic about the world eating you up. It’s a stunning, empowering piece of cinema for any age, but I think it will be very valuable for young girls to have this film and see Barbara as a character.”

But for director Anders Walters, Barbara is more than just a character; Barbara is a cipher for every teenage girl who has ever felt unheard, misjudged or like they were a social misfit – and for the notion that having an escape route isn’t always a bad thing.

“You can be Barbara if you’re being bullied at school. You can be Barbara because you like to play Dungeons and Dragons and dress up weird,” he told indiewire.com.

“Sometimes, that kind of fandom or extreme imagination divorces you from reality, and sometimes it brings you closer to it.”

Also starring: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana and Sydney Wade
Rating: 18TC
Running time: 100 mins

WORDS Camille Hogg 

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