Review: Coming Of Age with Resilience in Giant Little Ones

In this unexpectedly satisfying sophomore work from writer/director Keith Behrman (2002’s Flowers & Garnet), Giant Little Ones is the story of two fairly popular high school boys—Franky (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas (Darren Mann)—who have an event transpire between them after Franky's drunken 17th birthday party that causes their friendship and deep connection in each other’s lives to implode in such a way that it disrupts their lives and the lives of their families. The reason the film works so well is that the story of the two boys doesn’t exist in a bubble—we see the rippling impact it has on everyone around them, things playing out in unexpected and expected ways as a result.

Giant Little Ones Image courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

With Franky being the real central character here, each person around him is given their moments to shine and grow at some point in the film. His recently divorced parents (Maria Bello and Kyle MacLachlan, both of whom add a wonderful strength to the proceedings) are still figuring out how to negotiate around each other after MacLachlan’s character left the family after realizing he was attracted to men. Some of my favorite moments in Giant Little Ones involve Franky hanging out with his oldest friend, an out lesbian named Mouse (Niamh Wilson). They share a devastatingly funny scene in which she explores her curiosity about men’s bodies (more for scientific purposes than any attraction) using Franky as her warm-blooded, anatomically correct mannequin. Even though I like the film, I could have easily watched one just about these two.

Also quite impressive is the way filmmaker Behrman examines the early-stage relationship between Franky and Ballas’ sister Natasha (Taylor Hickson), which Ballas is not happy about. Natasha has been through a great deal in her young life, and the way she reveals this to Franky is one of the film’s most beautiful exchanges.

In an honest and sweet way, Giant Little Ones is a film about how confusing sex and sexuality can be when you’re in the earliest stages of your life where it’s even a concern. The 20-year-old Wiggins has been so impressive since his debut in Hellion five years ago, as well as in such works as Walking Out and the upcoming Sundance hit Light From Light. Here, he captures both the fearlessness and the resilience of youth, and he does so quietly and with a reserved strength that actors twice his age haven’t quite mastered yet. This is a terrific film overall, and a great showcase for Wiggins' talents.

The film opens today at the AMC River East 21.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxLBTRcDVfU

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.