TIFF 2018: Giant Little Ones

Josh Wiggins and Kyle MacLachlan in Giant Little Ones. Courtesy of TIFF.

Giant Little Ones captures how high school environments have and haven’t changed in a generation where LGBTQ acceptance is becoming common.

Friends since they were young, Franky Winter (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann) have been able to lead similar lives.  They’re popular in high school and both are members of the swim team.  On the outside looking in, they appear to be popular with the girls.  All of this changes when Franky celebrates his 17th birthday.  The next thing we know, the two–how to best say it–share a moment together.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it but neither one are able to fully grasp what just happened.

“It never would have happened if we weren’t wasted,” Ballas says.

It’s how they respond to the incident that pulls their friendship apart.  Ballas does what several closeted teenagers will do: present a different image in public.  He starts spreading rumors in school, which only lead to more teasing.  Whether or not you wish to call it internalized homophobia, Ballas is no different from other teens struggling.  As Franky struggles with his own feelings, while he lives with his mother, Carly (Maria Bello), he’s lucky enough to be able to go to his father, Ray (Kyle MacLachlan), for support.  Their relationship at the end of the film is in a different place than it was at the beginning.

As Franky starts to hang out with Ballas’ sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson) again, their friendship soon becomes a romance.  They had a previous relationship in the past but this time around, it becomes more public rather than secretive.  Make no mistake that it only leads to escalate the problems between Franky and Ballas.

Writer-director Keith Behrman is able to capture the high school environment that prevents many of us from coming out.  To put it simply, Giant Little Ones is a film that could not be made in the 1990s and maybe not even the 2000s.  This also speaks to the changing cultural landscape.  It’s more important now that we have acceptance of LGBTQ citizens.  Without the right family support, we have no choice but to run away or worse.

There’s a character, Mouse (Niamh Wilson), that may be genderqueer or even trans-masculine.  The film doesn’t outright say anything about transgender identity but Mouse is a “girl who loves to pack.”  If there is ever a sequel, I’d be interested in seeing how things develop.

Giant Little Ones is a beautiful story and serves to remind us that people should be celebrated and not bullied for who they are.  This transgender woman approves.

CAST:  Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson, Peter Outerbridge, with Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello

Giant Little Ones held its world premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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