TIFF 2016: The Giant Review


The Giant, a Swedish and Danish production directed by Johannes Nyholm, is a story about a man with a disability. Rikard (played by non-disabled Christian Eriksson) has a facial deformity that impairs his ability to communicate. Rikard loves pétanque, a game reminiscent of bocce, and is quite good at it. However, this passion could put him in danger as he wishes to travel to a tournament.

Rikard lives in a group home and many of his fellow residents are played by people with disabilities. This is similar in approach to Gabrielle, except that film also had its protagonist played by an actor with a disability (however, her love interest wasn’t). Having actors with disabilities adds authenticity, I’m less enthusiastic about characters with disabilities being played by actors without, but accept that it’s necessary at times. It should be said that Eriksson does not attempt to play Rikard as an inspirational hero-like figure. Rikard has his moments of rebellion and indignation like everyone else.

That’s where the Giant comes in. At several points in the film we see through Rikard’s blurry perspective (he can only see through one eye), but what he sees is often still beautiful and majestic. In times of duress, Rikard imagines himself as a giant, trudging through the landscape and destroying obstacles in his path (he’s a nice giant, though). I believe this aspect of the film highlights how we often look to an escape for our challenges in life. My escape has been going to 42 films in the last 11 days, including one in which I can pretend to be a giant, so I can’t complain.


Although sometimes dealing in the disability tropes of this subgenre, The Giant stomps new ground in that it encourages us to actively take on the disability perspective of its protagonist.  

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.