Giant Little Ones ****
Starring: Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson, Maria Bello, Kyle MacLachlan
Director: Keith Behrman
It’s been a while since a good North American coming-of-age indie flick graced UK screens. In Canadian Giant Little Ones we see a progression of the “boy experiments with boy, boy bdiscovers sexuality” trope, because sexual experience here does not have to equate to sexual preference. Which is unusual territory for a film nowadays.
Franky (Wiggins) and Ballas (Mann) have been best friends since childhood. Members of the same swim-team, they do everything together and physical contact is a normal part of their daily lives. Then, after a lot of alcohol at Franky’s seventeenth Birthday party, their friendship turns sexual, albeit only briefly. As both try to come to terms with what’s happened, both begin to lash out in entirely different ways.
The film contrasts its characters’ experiences with openly gay people too. One boy on the swim team is openly gay and ends up on the receiving end of abuse from his team-mates. Franky’s father (MacLachlan) too is gay, having left his mother (Bello) for a man, much to her derision. While both are fairly progressive characters in their ability to stand up for themselves, neither of their experiences paint homosexuality in a positive light. And it’s this lack of visibility of the positive gay experience that leads Ballas to react so badly.
He lashes out at his friend, feeling the need to publicly shame him for what could easily have remained private. His reaction is symptomatic of his own shame, which trumps any feelings of loyalty he has left. Really, this is a film about friendship, but unlike most buddy movies, their obstacle is that, one time, they hooked up.
An attractive film that glorifies life in the suburbs like a good John Hughes movie, its early scenes revel in the teen experience with a thumping soundtrack and party scenes that make Skins look tame. Its editing is also daring in jump-cutting to after an event happens, enjoying its aftermath rather than the act itself. As a result, this is a rather unusual film about teenage sexuality because it doesn’t feel any need to show it whatsoever. Which in 2020, is unusual.
The film sags a little in its exploration of Franky’s friendship with Ballas’ sister (Hickson), but at least not everything is always terrible for Franky after becoming a pariah. While this is another film that depicts a fairly negative gay experience and returns often to locker-room sequences to keep people watching, the stakes are high enough to make this an entertaining ninety minutes.
OUT NOW ON DEMAND AND ON DVD, RELEASED BY MONGREL MEDIA