Jose Mari Goenaga and Jon Garano’s last film, Flowers, was one of the gems of 2014, a beautifully crafted meditation on love and mortality that became the first Basque film to be nominated as Spain’s candidate for the Academy Awards. Anyone hoping for more of the same will be surprised by Giant, a stately historical drama based on a true Basque story that plays out like an elegant but simple fable.
Technically superb, Giant is hobbled by a script that plods earnestly along like the giant at its center, and like him it starts to limp soon after mid-point. Though it represents a new technical high point for Basque cinema, and is an authentic visual feast, it strains too obviously at magnificence, its subtlety sacrificed to its sweep. Despite walking off with Goyas for music, script, editing, photography and six more, Giant is unlikely to raise interest much beyond fests with an interest in its cultural value.
An unnecessary voiceover about mutability tops and tails the film, and is best forgotten; far better to have gone straight to the discovery by Martin (Joseba Usabiaga) that the bones of his dead brother Joaquin (Eneko Sagardoy) have gone missing from their coffin. Martin and Joaquin are working for their father Antonio (Ramon Agirre) at their family’s mountainside farm in the stunning Altxo region of the Basque Country in the 1830s — until the army turns up and demands that one of the sons recruits. Martin goes, leaving behind the possibility of a relationship with Maria (Aia Kruse).
Three years and a couple of creditably shot battle scenes later, Martin returns home with dreams of emigrating to America, only to find that Joaquin has grown into a giant, towering over those around him. The moments leading up to their reunion, in the shadows of a church, are strikingly done, like many of the film’s carefully crafted scenes. Having returned a streetwise man, Martin figures that the family could make some money out of Joaquin, and decides to take the Joaquin show out on the road along with business manager Jose Antonio (Inigo Aranburu), whose character is surplus to dramatic requirements.
Giant Basque-language historical fable about a man who never stops growing,