Thursday, 4 October 2018

Giant Little Ones (2018 EIFF 4)



One of the best surprises of the 2018 EIFF is this Canadian indie gem, written and directed by Keith Behrman. Set in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (though it could be anywhere in North America), Giant Little Ones is a marvellous unsensationalized study of teenage sexuality. I’m not a huge fan of films about teenagers, but this film’s unique characters won me over. In my opinion, Giant Little Ones is just as good, or better, as last year’s critical indie hit, Call Me By Your Name

Franky (Josh Wiggins) is your average likeable 16-year-old. He’s very angry at his father, Ray (Kyle MacLachlan) for leaving his mother, Carly (Maria Bello) for a man, but otherwise Franky is doing just fine. He’s part of the swim team, along with his lifelong best friend, Ballas (Darren Mann), he has a trans friend called Mouse (Niamh Wilson) and he has a girlfriend, Cil (Hailey Little), who wants both of them to lose their virginity on his 17th birthday. Life is good. 

But Franky’s 17th birthday party doesn’t go as planned. Something happens between Franky and Ballas that will cause Ballas to end their friendship and destroy Franky’s reputation in school. Only Mouse and Ballas’s sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson), stand by Franky as his life takes a dark turn (though it’s not as dark a turn as the one other characters are facing, or have faced).

Giant Little Ones presents a fascinating glimpse into how teenagers today struggle with their sexual and gender identities. Without ever being didactic, the film explores all the issues from many different angles in an honest and refreshing way, though the overall situation seems a little improbable. The acting is outstanding by all concerned (Canadian actor Peter Outerbridge is also on hand, as Ballas’s father), but especially by the teenagers, with Wiggins being entirely convincing and always sympathetic. The writing is natural and nuanced, and the cinematography and score are more than good enough. 

Giant Little Ones doesn’t feel like a small Canadian indie film made by an unknown filmmaker. That is meant to be a compliment, but it also highlight’s the film’s most noticeable flaw: everyone looks a little too nice and there’s a bit of a Hollywood feel to the story’s ending. My only other complaint is the lack of character development for some of the lesser characters, but that’s a lot to ask for and Franky’s character development is terrific. So Giant Little Ones gets somewhere between ***+ and **** and will almost certainly be among my five favourite films at the 2018 EIFF. My mug is up. Write down the title for future reference.

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