Keith Behrman’s Giant Little Ones is a coming-of-age film that tells a story of the fears of coming out of the closet and one that also explores the concept of sexual fluidity. While it’s commendable to see a film that embraces the fact that these concepts are not the binaries that society paints them out to be, Giant Little Ones also seems to feel a little bit lacking everywhere else. That’s not to say Giant Little Ones is bad, because it’s a fairly decent film on the whole but it seems to lack what would otherwise have made it a great film despite having all the ingredients that would have made one. For a film that has all the potential to create something greater or more meaningful for younger people still trying to form a better understanding of the spectrum upon which we find ourselves best feeling a sense of identification, it seems to feel so limited even in its scope – thus it never really sticks its own landing. It’s cute enough to warrant a single viewing, especially among younger viewers who are still coming to terms with understanding core aspects of their own sexual orientation, but it seems to struggle with finding the footing of its own.
Franky (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas (Darren Mann) have been best friends since childhood, and upon the night of Franky’s seventeenth birthday party, Ballas finds himself in the position of potentially being outed in front of his peers. Soon enough, a rumour starts to spread but Ballas is not the one being outed, rather it is Franky – who is still in the position of trying to understand everything else he has left to deal with. While there’s potential for a great film that can be made out of what these revelations can do towards your own relationships with friends and family, Giant Little Ones also seems to have so little to cover beyond what it feels like being outed. On the surface, we still see Franky trying to come to terms with understanding his own sexuality now that Ballas has put him in such a position but at most, its exploration of the impacts upon the relationships between others feels at odds even with its own self too, which squanders the potential that Giant Little Ones has.
If there’s anything that Giant Little Ones is able to capture perfectly, it’s the consequences of what happens upon being outed and although the ambiguity to Franky’s own sexuality remains a key element towards the potency of what comes by, it still doesn’t ever feel conclusive enough as a whole. Many of the film’s more explicitly queer characters are often put aside, which dampens the possible impact that could have come out from seeing how Franky’s worldview would be impacted by something he is still struggling to understand. While I do admire the fact that the film still captures what it feels like to be completely unsure of one’s surroundings especially when it comes to understanding core aspects of your own gender identity and sexual orientation, what keeps Keith Behrman’s film from reaching the heights of other films of its sort arises from the fact that only Franky and Ballas’s views ever seem to be the only ones at the center at the expense of other characters.
Despite this, it’s hard to fault any of the performances here. Wiggins and Mann are fantastic, especially when talking about how they capture the confusion of how to handle what could happen upon a revelation so shocking (especially the fear of being outed), but Kyle MacLachlan is quite revelatory in his small part here. MacLachlan, playing the role of Franky’s father who has been distanced from the rest of his family after it was found out that he was gay, is also quite heartbreaking in the moments that he spends together with his son. It’s every moment in which MacLachlan comes in, trying to help Franky understand how the fluidity of his peers’ sexuality, almost echoes a key sequence between Michael Stuhlbarg and Timothée Chalamet in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name. Although his screentime may be brief, he never feels as if he’s being underused by Behrman, because of how he understands the impact that his words will place on Franky’s own growth as he comes to accept his identity and place.
There’s a great film that could have been made out of a concept like this, but at best it remains an admirable enough effort. It’s respectable enough for confronting the toxic masculinity that runs rampant especially in a high school setting and how it affects LGBTQ+ students of all sorts, but it seems to lack the authenticity that would have made this film even more powerful everywhere else. That having been said, there’s an importance in the film’s willingness to explore far beyond the binaries of both gender and sexual identity especially in a heteronormative society, because at a young age, people start to get a better grasp on such a subject when around those who are more open about it. For a film that tries its best to capture the hellish realities that come forward with being stuck inside the closet, its impact feels stinted from the fact that it feels almost as if it were written on the basis of the beats of other coming-of-age films which keeps it from going much elsewhere.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Mongrel Media.
Directed by Keith Behrman
Screenplay by Keith Behrman
Produced by Allison Black
Starring Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson, Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello
Release Date: September 9, 2018 (TIFF), March 1, 2019 (North America)
Running Time: 93 minutes