Giant Little Ones
High school isn’t easy, and high school movies have always tried to capture that uniquely uneasy feeling. Giant Little Ones is a drama about going through the social growing pains of gaining autonomy and all that involves, but sets itself apart by taking an honest, in-depth look at how complicated teenaged life can be.
On the eve of Frankie’s (Josh Wiggins) 17th birthday, it seems like he’s doing a good job of living an average teen life. He has a supportive mom (Maria Bello) who’s no longer with his father (Kyle MacLachlan), and he’s relatively popular in school. He has a girl he’s kind of seeing, but best of all, a lifelong best friend, Ballas (Darren Mann). Nothing in his life is too perfect, but nothing is too terrible either. That is, until his birthday party.
Given that the defining incident at his party is a bit of a spoiler, even though it happens fairly early, I’ll leave it out of my review. The specifics are secondary to the tailspin it throws Frankie’s life into. He’s forced to confront friendship and loyalty, as well as his own identity and how others deal with all of these issues.
This might not seem like an atypical teen film on the surface, but the ways these kids face these issues does seem like a very modern problem. One thing Giant Little Ones does incredibly well is frame the issues with respect and weight, and never trivializes any of their struggles. These kids are working on becoming the adults that will soon have great responsibilities, and the identities they’re shaping will have an impact on their worlds.
Giant Little Ones also has a good grasp on the divide between generations. The film frames parent and child relationships in devastatingly realistic ways, each different and none simple or straightforward. The movie takes time to address the nuances. All of the parents are just trying to do their best in a difficult situation.
Without being too heavy-handed, Giant Little Ones explores the current state of teenage sexuality, and the acceptance thereof. Best of all, it shows that teens are not a monolith. What one kid is okay with, another might not be. And their experiences and tastes can change and develop over time. We are thankfully given enough time with the characters to see how they learn to deal with all of this.
As someone who tends to have an aversion to teen dramas (I’ve already lived through that, thank you), I’m glad I gave Giant Little Ones a chance. It’s sensitive, caring, and truly concerned with showing the complexities of modern teen life, with a dignity often reserved only for adult films.