×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘The Giant’

David Raboy's debut has style to spare, but holds the viewer at a frustrating distance.

With:
Odessa Young, Ben Schnetzer, Jack Kilmer, Madelyn Cline, Danny Ramirez, PJ Marshall

1 hour 39 minutes

First-time feature director-writer-editor David Raboy certainly knows how to conjure up an atmosphere. Expanding his own short of the same title, Raboy’s elliptical psychological thriller “The Giant” gives us the story of a small Southern town beset by a killing spree, yet his real interest is in the constant changes in barometric pressure: the heaviness of the sticky, buggy Georgia air; the gathering storm that builds and builds just over the horizon for the entirety of the film. But he lays the atmosphere on so think that it threatens to suffocate everything within, and the film holds its audience at such a remove that eventually you stop trying to connect.

Containing little in the way of linear plot, “The Giant” is always willing to leave its viewers in the dark, often quite literally: much of the film (shot on 35 mm by Eric Yue) takes place in grainy darkness, and Raboy is just as likely to fill frames with smears of light and blurry figures crowding the foreground as he is with clearly defined images. Dialogue follows suit, with characters spitting out fragments of cryptic, unfinished thoughts and half-remembered reveries in low whispers. In small doses, his filmmaking style exudes confidence, and there’s something intriguing about the teasing way he leads us around the furthest edges of his story. But Raboy gives us so little to hang onto – be it an arresting image, a palpable touch of the uncanny, or a moment of real tension – that it gets harder and harder to want to follow him.

Charlotte (Odessa Young) is a 17-year-old spending one last sweltering summer in her hometown before heading off to college. Charlotte’s mother recently committed suicide, and the death hangs heavy over her as she tries to enjoy some quality time with best friend Olivia (Madelyn Cline) and the local boys hanging around the unnamed town’s run-down diners and lakes.

The story kicks into gear when Charlotte’s mysterious boyfriend Joe (Ben Schnetzer) returns to town after an unexplained absence, and his nocturnal appearances in Charlotte’s life start to draw her away from her other friends. Again and again, the two drive in circles through winding country roads, talk in circles about their own dimly articulated past, and tend to have passing encounters with young women, some of whom bearing a resemblance to Charlotte, who will later turn up murdered.

This spate of killings is, strangely, largely a background issue for the film, with all of the violence occurring safely offscreen. And even when the body count rises so high that the city imposes a curfew, the focus remains solely on Charlotte and her steady disconnection from reality. Is Charlotte in danger? Is Joe the killer? Is Charlotte? Is any of this really happening? Raboy isn’t interested in providing many direct answers, and even as the film builds to a climactic end-of-summer party, it drifts further into dreamlike abstraction.

Appearing in every scene, Young certainly manages to command the screen, though she isn’t given too many different notes to hit, with her performance confined to a narrow range of ambiguously haunted disorientation. As Olivia, Cline is responsible for providing virtually all of “The Giant’s” scant bursts of liveliness, humor and spontaneity, and the film’s pulse quickens with almost every scene she’s in. Hardly anyone else has the chance to make much of an impression.

Raboy certainly has style to spare, and as much as a viewer might be frustrated by some of his choices, there’s always a clear intention behind them. One just hopes his next film will let us in on what those intentions are.

Popular on Variety

Toronto Film Review: 'The Giant'

Reviewed at UTA screening room, Los Angeles, August 22, 2019. (In Toronto Film Festival - Discovery)

Production: A Camera Ready Pictures presentation of a Bogie Films, Vixens, Extra A production. Produced by Dennis Masel, Daniel Dewes, Rachael Fung, Gary Farkas, Clement Lepoutre, Olivier Muller.

Crew: Directed, written, edited by David Raboy. Camera (color): Eric Yue. Music: Ari Balouzian.

With: Odessa Young, Ben Schnetzer, Jack Kilmer, Madelyn Cline, Danny Ramirez, PJ Marshall

More Film

  • Joker

    Why 'Joker' Is About All of Us (Column)

    Take a look at the photo above. It’s the most poetic image to have emerged from Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” and the reason I say “poetic” isn’t just because the shot has that caught-in-action indelible vibe of a quintessential movie poster: graphic, hauntingly composed, a bit shocking (at least, the first time you see it). It’s [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Rules International Box Office With $117 Million

    Though Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” stumbled at the domestic box office, the Angelina Jolie-led sequel enjoyed a far stronger start overseas. The follow-up to 2014’s fantasy adventure inspired by the “Sleeping Beauty” villain took off with $117 million from 56 international markets. In North America, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted with a meager $36 [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Dominates With Soft $36 Million

    Five years after Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” cast a spell over the box office, the villainous enchantress has returned to the top of domestic charts. Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to 2014’s fantasy adventure based on the “Sleeping Beauty” sorceress, flew lower than the original and debuted to a disappointing $36 million from 2,790 [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]

  • Film Republic Adds Further Sales for

    Film Republic Inks Further Deals for 'God of the Piano' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sales agent Film Republic has closed further territory sales on “God of the Piano.” Film Movement previously picked up North American rights to the film, as reported exclusively by Variety. Mont Blanc Cinema has taken the rights for Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Limelight Distribution is looking after the Australian and New Zealand releases, Hualu [...]

  • ‘Bears Famous Invasion’s Lorenzo Mattotti Brings

    Lorenzo Mattotti on MIA Title ‘Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily’

    Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti is no stranger to film festivals. The artist – a long-time New Yorker cover artist and onetime Lou Reed and Michelangelo Antonioni collaborator – has designed posters for past editions of Venice and Cannes, and has contributed to films that played in Toronto and Rome. This year, however, he experienced the festival [...]

  • Dreamworks Abominable

    'Abominable' Release in Malaysia Abandoned

    Plans to release the increasingly controversial Chinese-U.S. co-produced animation film “Abominable” in Malaysia have been dropped after the distributor said that it would not be cut to cater to political sensitivities. The film includes a scene which depicts a map showing the South China Sea and the so called “nine-dash line” that China uses to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content