Queer cinema has seen a number of coming-out movies, increasingly focused on teenagers coming to terms with their identities. Though these still harbour important allegories on empathy and understanding, the exhausted tropes have caused many coming-out films to blur into one. Giant Little Ones, despite initial expectation, cleverly subverts these stereotypes whilst pertaining its nuanced realism.
Franky Winter is an average 16-year-old boy who, after a hazy sexual experience with his best friend Ballas Kohl, has his whole world turned upside down. From having tons of friends, a girlfriend and place on the swim team, Franky follows his 17th birthday beaten, rejected and confused.
What is truly commendable about director Keith Behrman’s perceptive indie-flick is the way sexuality and identity and are not wholly categorized. Rather than a straight-forward “Mom, I’m gay” conclusion, Behrman awards bisexual representation without labels. As Franky’s father (Kyle MacLachlan) explains toward the end of the film, perhaps it’s not about trying to find a title for yourself, but simply seeing who you are drawn to. Especially during the turbulent years of high school.
The macho jockey, high school bullies and raving house parties are no stranger to coming-of-age movies. And although Giant Little Ones does include these somewhat overused features, it’s only because they play such a prevalent part in suburban American life. Behrman manages to sway away from convention by showing them in a new light. As Franky and Ballas cycle through the quiet morning town- sunlight filtering through the trees- we are not cloaked with inspirational, joyous music, highlighting the initial equilibrium of their lives. Instead, electronic house music pulses over the scenes, later amplified into a wild party sequence. A daring move, but one that really pays off.
The tone of Giant Little Ones is established with ease. The unadorned dialogue and simplistic (but nonetheless lovey) cinematography make for a sense of realism and pathos. Dark themes are touched upon with sensitivity, not exploited for easy drama. Behrman doesn’t back away from naming things outright- which could otherwise encourage shame or embarrassment about such topics. Yet he doesn’t fetishize them either, with explicit details remaining verbal rather than wholly visual.
Behrman also includes many humorous moments- again, giving a realistic depiction of the modern queer experience that balances pathos with comedy. Giant Little Ones never quite goes where viewers are expecting. It is honest, smart and an original take on the everyday coming-out drama.