What plot The Giant has mostly plays out in the periphery, often confoundingly interspersed with gauzy flashbacks and dream sequences that make chronology, and reality, elusive. Charlotte and her circle of friends hear some mysterious screaming in the woods one night while they’re partying by a lake and learn soon after that several local girls have been killed; the realization slowly dawns that their lives might be in danger, too.
And then, coincidentally, Joe reappears in Charlotte’s life, brooding and mercurial as ever, apparently interested in rekindling their relationship. She’s wary and cautious yet powerfully drawn to him, and their scenes together are shot through with both giddy intimacy and an understated, yet unmistakable, sense of tension and menace.
“…visual lyricism, elliptical coming-of-age dramatics, and – maybe most strongly – an oppressive, overwhelming sense of dread.”
If that all still sounds a little bit conventional, make no mistake that The Giant, for both better and worse, plays by its own rules and moves to its own languorous rhythms. The cinematography, by Eric Yue, is swooning and dreamlike, sometimes so dark and indistinct that fades to black happen without you even noticing. The southern small-town settings look lived-in to the point of decay. And, at almost every turn, the acting and writing are affected and off-kilter; characters speak almost exclusively in a narcotized near-whisper, and even the most innocuous lines of dialogue ring with despair and foreboding.
The film definitely does weave some kind of spell, its florid atmosphere thick enough to drown in. Like David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, The Giant offers up an aesthetically beautiful, relentlessly somber take on the horrors of growing up, but its meaning is slipperier, and its pleasures (if you can even call them that) are much more cerebral. One suspects that most viewers won’t make it past the first 30 minutes, and fewer still to its unsettling climax, which hints at something apocalyptic that remains just out of reach. You have to admire the filmmaker’s refusal to spell things out or to provide any sense of closure – that’s of a piece with everything else in The Giant – but it’s certain to confound and, likely, to frustrate.
But, try as I might, I can’t quite shake nor stop thinking about The Giant, and that makes me believe Raboy’s done something very, very right, here – even if you might have to squint a bit to see it.
"…plays by its own rules and moves to its own languorous rhythms."