THE GIANT movie poster | ©2020 Vertical

THE GIANT movie poster | ©2020 Vertical

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Odessa Young, Ben Schnetzer, Jack Kilmer, Madelyn Cline, Danny Ramirez, P.J. Marshall
Writer: David Raboy
Director: David Raboy
Distributor: Vertical
Release Date: November 13, 2020

THE GIANT turns out to be a lot like its main character, Charlotte Williams (Odessa Young). Charlotte is beautiful, distracted, depressed, and has a hard time separating reality from dreams.

Likewise, THE GIANT writer/director David Raboy has a distinctive visual style that smears light deliberately through the frame from onscreen sources to often striking effect, with trees that gleam and relentless cicadas on the soundtrack. He’s also very deft with audible jump scares. However, Raboy is so intent on being atmospheric and evoking moods that it becomes not only difficult but frustrating to engage with the story.

Charlotte is a just-graduated high school senior in a small Georgia town. She is still deeply grieving the suicide of her mother, which occurred the previous year. Charlotte and her best friend Olivia (Madelyn Cline) are planning to hang out together for the rest of the summer, until college sends them and their group in different directions.

Then Charlotte’s ex-boyfriend Joe (Ben Schnetzer) suddenly reappears, after having vanished apparently shortly after Charlotte’s mother died. Charlotte and Joe, we learn, have a deep love for one another that goes back to eighth grade, still felt powerfully after their time apart.

At almost the same time, Charlotte’s police chief father, Rex Williams (P.J. Marshall) is drawn into an investigation of a serial killer preying on young women of Charlotte’s age.

In dreams, Charlotte is drawn to her family’s old house, now a decaying mansion in the middle of nowhere. Charlotte wonders aloud if dreams are actually parallel lives that continue on their own tracks after the dreamers awaken.

So, the questions naturally are: 1) Why did Charlotte’s mother kill herself? 2) Did something else terrible happen that summer, as Charlotte and Joe suggest? 3) Who is the serial killer? 4) Are these things connected?

This doesn’t even cover matters like what’s driving the serial killer, or why he’s called the Giant, or why Charlotte and her father both seem to want but cannot achieve a solid relationship with one another.

We can buy how seriously Charlotte and Joe take their bond, as it’s been a key factor for a good portion of both their lives. Also, they’re adolescents, and that’s a time in life when a lot of people are laser-focused on romance. Everybody keeps talking about undefined events to the point where things go from being mysterious to what seems like a near-parody of David Lynch.

We can even accept that Joe addresses Charlotte in quasi-poetic fashion, again, because it’s how a young man might seek to impress a young woman. However, when other characters in the film also speak in this way, it doesn’t lull us further into the world of THE GIANT. Instead, it makes us retreat a bit, because it doesn’t sound right.

Young is outstanding as the sensitive Charlotte, and Cline makes a strong impression as the passionate Olivia.

THE GIANT is undeniably pretty and achieves a certain eeriness. However, the film’s unwillingness to provide traditional answers is likely to leave a lot of viewers unsatisfied.

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