Writer and Director: Keith Behrman
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
There’s no shortage of coming-out films, but they are still necessary, especially when there’s a revival of right-wing thinking across the world. However, Giant Little Ones, a Canadian film showing at BFI Flare, London’s LGBTQ+ film festival, is not a straightforward coming-out film. It could be argued that it’s not a coming-out film at all.
Franky gets up at 5amevery morning so that he can attend swim practice before school. At the pool and in school he hangs-out with his best friend Ballas. It seems an easy life of bikes and suburbia, and Franky is a popular teenager as evidenced by the turnout at his birthday party. They are all good kids and even though they get drunk and smoke pot at Franky’s party, they’ve still got the sense to clean up before 1am, when his mother comes home after her date. Franky’s father isn’t around that much. He now lives with his male partner, a decision that Franky hasn’t quite come to terms with.
But it’s at the party where Franky’s life slips out of its expected narrative. He was meant to be going ‘all the way’ with his girlfriend Priscilla, sneaking her into his room when the rest of his family was asleep. However, Priscilla’s parents wanted her home early, and so he ends up sharing his bed with Ballas. Both boys are drunk and stoned, and high after having a fight with some local yobs in a car. Something happens in the bed between them, but writer/director Keith Behrman withholds this vital scene.
When Franky returns to school he is ostracised by his friends and only finds company among the other outcasts of the school, Ballas’s sister Natasha and transgender Mouse. The set-up of this story may be familiar but Behrman surprises his viewers by not quite following the rules of the coming-out genre. And while it’s slightly frustrating not to have the emotional payoff, Giant Little Onesis probably a more realistic portrayal of teenage life. It also helps that Josh Wiggins, who plays, Franky is such a watchable actor, looking very much like versions of Matt Damon; with hair Wiggins looks like Damon circa The Talented Mr Ripley, and, after Wiggins shaves his hair, like Damon, battered and bruised, in Saving Private Ryan. After his confident performance in this film, Wiggins may have a future as successful as Damon’s too.
Behrman makes sure that the camera lingers on all the scabs and scars of his actors, and under his crisp, clear vision, all the young performers shine. As Ballas, Darren Mann perfectly captures a teenager’s sulkiness and stubbornness while Taylor Hickson as Natasha demonstrates how difficult teenage life can be if you don’t follow the prescribed route of boys and sport. The only unsympathetic performance comes from established actor Kyle MacLachlan who plays Franky’s gay dad. He seems a little smug and materialistic and it’s no surprise that Franky doesn’t seem to like him, but it’s unclear to whether this unpleasant portrayal is deliberate.
Giant Little Onesis sleekly made, and definitely punches above its budget, and Behrman’s suburbia looks like Eden here. Yet, there’s very little story, but that seems to be the point of the film. The merest details can seem like life-changing decisions to the heightened consciousness of teenagers, and there’s enough drama here in speeding bikes and soaring flares.