GIANT LITTLE ONES: A Nuanced, Intelligent Story Of Teenage Love

Giant Little Ones, directed by Keith Behrman, explores new territory in the teenage “coming out” film genre and it’s a refreshing, welcomed addition. The film opens with Franky Winters (Josh Wiggins) enjoying an idyllic teenage life.

His best friend since childhood, Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann), is his constant companion as they sail through high school as popular kids with girlfriends and spots on the swim team. Though they are inseparable, they are two very different people. Franky is introvert, sweet and sensitive, while Ballas is mercurial, primal and dominant. He also uses violence to protect a gay boy and then to defend his masculinity, while Franky shrinks back from aggression. Despite the relative shiny exterior of their lives, Franky is uneasy.

There’s something pushing against him just under the surface that even he can’t really name. His 17th birthday party promises to be that special night with his girlfriend. But, he has no real excitement for it and approaches planning the night like a chore. When it’s cancel, he comes alive again enjoying the night with Ballas.

When they stumble back to his place, something surprising happens in the dark. As the ramifications of that night unfold, the film deftly reveals the deeper complexities of Franky’s life. His father (Kyle MacLachlan) left his mother (Maria Bello) for a man and Ballas’s sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson) has a tragic connection with Franky from their past. By getting thrown into the deep end of sorting through his sexual identity, Franky finds himself in a way that resonates with emotional honestly, with answers that feel real because they’re messy ones.

Bold storytelling is successful through emotional authenticity

The sex scene is film completely in the dark, so when both reveal what happen that night the truth about Ballas’s character is crystal clear. He’s certainly not the friend Franky idealized him to be, even though it’s obvious Ballas loves him. This was brilliant writing because it allow the act to be explicit enough to be unmistakable in its eroticism and instantly made it clear it’s Franky whose telling the truth.

Giant Little Ones takes a bold move in being about letting the labels go and allowing Franky to explore love and sex on his own terms. Later, when Frankly expresses his feelings for Natasha, though he’s accus of trying to prove he’s not gay by being with her, it’s clear it’s real for him. He’s figuring it out.

Because it is still dangerous to be a LGBTQ teenager, how it’s portray onscreen has resounding effects. Teenagers are looking for themselves in these roles to affirm they’re normal and lovable and want in the world. Giant Little Ones wins in its respect for the audience’s intelligence. It’s a celebration of love in all of its forms without corny overdone formulas.

One of the best scenes is Franky’s father delivering the speech it seems any kid struggling to find their sexual identity would want to hear from a parent, inspiring tears over eye-rolls, which is an extraordinary feat. That it’s his gay dad giving it is even better.

How cinema paints the tone of teenage LGBTQ movies

Giant Little Ones is unapologetic about its optimism from the beginning. Franky is going to get through this and every element of the film demonstrates it. In contrast, the conversion camp drama, Boy Erased, expertly paints a film of complete sexual repression. Nearly every scene takes place indoors under drab lighting. When anyone is outside it’s either at night or under the cover of a building.

Teenage vitality is aggressively erase. While Jared (Lucas Hedges) waits for his mother outside under the center awning, no one is standing upright, the weight of their experience express in their bodies. The music is either somber or full of tension. Almost every scene has an adult looming and it’s the adult that has the most lines, unless a teen is confessing under watchful eyes. There’s foreboding here, that the adult are going to break these kids. Everything is aggressively unsexy. Jared’s monologues come in his rebellion, fill with rage and cries for freedom. Light, spaciousness, laughter and his own spaces come at the end.

Giant Little Ones is the opposite in every way.

The opening scene is Franky shirtless in bed with the sunlight streaming in, his sister (Olivia Scriven) bursts in joking about masturbation, follow by his mother who casually talks about a blind date. He gets breakfast in bed bare-chest surround by a matriarch who comfortably talks about sexuality and dating. The soundtrack compose by Michael Brook bounces with youthful exuberance throughout the film and easily carries into Franky’s epic birthday bash.

Franky always has his earbuds in and his soundtrack is the movie’s soundtrack. This is his movie. This film is awash in sunshine. Scenes indoors are mostly in daylight in open, welcoming spaces. Darkness shimmers with the mystery of being wild and young. The kids are free outside, riding their bikes around the neighborhood or in the locker rooms or in the pool. Everywhere they go are places they are comfortable with and choose to go. They are comfortable with their bodies, showing them off and letting the sun shine on their skin.

Adults come in to offer guidance but the characters are mostly with one another. The most significant scenes take place without adults. These are kids who are trust. Because the drama also happens between them, instead of adults controlling the narrative, it retains that endearing quality of teenage angst that’s going to pass as it gets work through.

Giant Little Ones shares many of these qualities with the charming 2018 teen comedy Love, Simon, while 2018 gay conversion drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post has all the similarities of Boy Erased. All of these stories need to be told.

Final Thoughts: Giant Little Ones

Excellent films are marked by every department telling the same story. Giant Little Ones is one of those gems. It sets out to clearly tell a positive story of sexual identity for teenagers, and it delivers. The director share stories of letters he receive that this movie literally save lives of teens who saw it, sometimes just the trailer. It’s a great example of respecting the impressible intelligence of an audience and giving them the vision of themselves that’s going to make a positive impact on their lives.

INFO:

Rating: R (for sexual content, language and some drug/alcohol use – all involving teens)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: Keith Behrman
Stars: Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson
Written By: Keith Behrman
In Theaters: Mar 1, 2019 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 18, 2019
Runtime: 93 minutes
Studio: Vertical Entertainment

CRITIC REVIEWS FOR GIANT LITTLE ONES

Bruce DeMara
Finally, a film about teenage sexuality and its inherent fluidity that has something authentic and intelligent to say.

James Berardinelli
There’s something enormously refreshing about the openness and honesty found in Keith Behrman’s coming-of-age film, Giant Little Ones.

Katie Walsh
Behrman has crafted a classic high school tale of outsiders finding themselves … The images are sumptuously saturated and gorgeously crafted, and the soundtrack thrums and whines with anxiety and racing pulse.

Mick LaSalle
Despite its lapses into self-consciousness, the movie presents us with a set of characters that we end up believing and caring about – not tremendously, but enough to keep watching to see how they all turn out.

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