In a landscape where the mere notion of educating teenagers about sexuality, identity and content have become hot button political issues, Keith Behrman’s Giant Little Ones feels timely and necessary. It is a film that not only captures this generation’s struggles with the pressures to define that which is still being formed.
By all accounts Franky (Josh Wiggins) is living the teenage dream, at least by movie standards. He is a member of the swim team, best friends with team captain Ballas (Darren Mann), and is spoken of fondly by the female population. On top of that he and his girlfriend are planning to lose their virginity on the night of his birthday party. While the party features its fair share of booze, weed, and general teenage debauchery, Franky’s plans take an unexpected turn when he and Ballas have an unexpected sexual encounter.
Before he can fully process what has happened, and how he feels about it, Franky notices that Ballas begins distancing himself from him. Agreeing that the drunken night in question shall never be spoken of again, Franky is shocked to discover that word of the encounter has already spread around school. Furthermore, the rumours make him, and not Ballas, out to be the initiator of the incident. Ostracized by his peers, except for his loyal friend Mouse (Niamh Wilson), who is open about her sexuality, Franky must come to terms with who he is and who he wants to be.
It is through Franky’s journey of self-discovery that Giant Little Ones weaves an intricate tale of the shifting nature of identity. Behrman’s film ponders how teens navigate their evolving identities within environments that were once familiar but now seem foreign. For Franky this occurs both at school as he attempts to confront the wedge that sex has caused in his lifelong friendship with Ballas; and at home as he deals with the inner conflict he has about his father (Kyle MacLachlan) leaving his mother (Maria Bello) for another man. This coming to terms with identity is not just confined to the male experience though.
For a film centred around male friendship, it is the women who are the most empowering and fully realized characters in the film. This is most effectively conveyed through Franky’s friendships with Mouse and Ballas’ sister Natasha (Taylor Hickson). While Mouse is open about liking females, many of the film’s moments of levity come from her still learning how to define her own image. Mouse is nicely juxtaposed with Natasha who embodies the darker side of the teenage experience. Still haunted by the trauma of rape, Natasha represents the survivors who are slowly regaining control of both their bodies and their comfort with intimacy.
Presenting a nuanced portrait of youth and the fluidity of identity Giant Little Ones is a sight to behold. The film effectively captures the pressures that are placed on teens to fit into certain boxes that should not have been labeled in the first place.