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. AMONG GIANTS offers
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
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.
MPAA Rating: R
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.