Among Giants

             With THE FULL MONTY, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy hit the
     jackpot. That film proved a popular success and earned several Academy
     Award nominations, including one for its script. Dusting off old projects,
     Beaufoy was able to shepherd
AMONG GIANTS to the screen. While both
     films are set among the working-class of Northern England and have
     sequences of nudity, the similarities end there.
     some pleasures but the overall result is a bit muddled. Key plot
     relationships are never clearly delineated which dilute the primary
     conflict. The screenplay seems more of a first draft then a polished
     completed effort.

             The story is fairly simple. Because of technological changes,
     unemployment in Yorkshire is high. Ray (Pete Postlethwaite) is hired
     as a foreman for a job painting electrical pylons which dot the moors.
     He assembles a motley group to assist him, including his friend and
     rock-climbing roommate Steven (James Thornton) and such colorfully
     named figures as Shovel and Weasel. The work is dangerous and they
     are under a time deadline to finish before the power is restored at the
     end of the summer. As the men bond and begin to find a rhythm to
     their work, their world is turned upside down when Ray hires an
     itinerant Australian woman Gerry (Rachel Griffiths), who also enjoys
     climbing. Initially wary of the newcomer — they immediately question
     her sexuality — the men gradually come to accept her, particularly when
     she and Ray begin an unlikely love affair.

             Beaufoy heaps all manner of obstacles on the couple. Gerry
     is used to being alone and clearly relishes her freedom — sexual
     and otherwise. She is fearful of making a commitment which is further
     complicated when she realizes just how serious Ray is becoming. For
     his part, Ray still has a wife from whom he's separated — and with
     whom he has two sons. What is particularly puzzling is the
     relationship between Ray and Steven. They share a run-down flat
     (until Gerry moves in and Steven returns to live with his father), they
     hang out together, but there is a big age difference. Whether there's
     supposed to be a father-son dynamic or even a mild homoerotic
     tension is never made clear in the script. This proves a crucial
     deficiency when the climax of the film occurs.

             Director Sam Miller, who makes his feature debut, handles things
     adequately. He is able to capture the hijinx and camaraderie of the
     working men. The scenes of them painting the pylons have a dizzy
     flair to them. But he is overly fond of shooting from cranes or
     helicopters. There are far too many shots of the moors and towers.
     Miller also seems out- to-sea with some of the more intimate scenes,
     although some of the problems there may be inherent in the script.
     There is also a long extended sequence where Postlethwaite and
     Griffiths cavort in the nude in an abandoned power plant where
     water drips down like rain. There is an odd beauty to the scene and
     the actors bravely pull off what could have been embarrassing.
     The performances from the principals are generally fine. Thornton
     is a relative screen newcomer and there are occasions when his
     inexperience shows. Former Oscar nominees Postlethwaite and
     Griffiths do their best but they generate no real screen heat.
     Chemistry between the two in this May-December romance would go
     a long way to play down the pitfalls of the screenplay, but there
     is precious little. These are good actors but they seem adrift.
     Beaufoy may have meant to craft a story that equated the dangers
     of painting these electrical towers with falling in love, but the
     metaphor never quite works. There is a germ of a good idea here
     but overall it fails to come together.

                             Rating:                C-
                             MPAA Rating:        R
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.