Film Review: GIANT LITTLE ONES (Canada 2018) ****

Giant Little Ones Poster
Trailer

Two popular teen boys, best friends since childhood, discover their lives, families, and girlfriends dramatically upended after an unexpected incident occurs on the night of a 17th birthday party.

Director:

Keith Behrman

Writer:

Keith Behrman

GIANT LITLLE ONES is the second feature from Vancouver filmmaker Keith Behrman (FLOWER & GARNET) that has already won accolades including three DGC (Directors Guild of Canada) nominations and the Vancouver Film Critics Circle’s BEST Screenplay for a Canadian film.  It also made this year’s Canada’s Top 10.  It is a film about youth – and one that captures the bullying and expectations of both upon youth.  The film has a gay slant and one that straight youth cannot accept, even in these days of gay acceptance.

The film opens with the protagonist, Franky Winter (Josh Wiggins) riding his bicycle around his neighbourhood.  It is a great scene that celebrates writer/director Behrman’s love for filmmaking.  The plot and story is not yet established and the camera just spans and moves around in  exhilaration as if to celebrate the joys of filming.  And the joy is catching.  The audience gets to enjoy this spanning of the landscape before the story settles on a more serious subject.  What is seen on screen could very well be a suburb of a Canadian or American city – but the setting is left ambiguous.  But one would wish that since it is a Canadian film, that the setting would be more deliberately stated as Canadian.  Money talks – and an American setting means a bigger target audience.  

The story is about labelling.  A straight swim team member is labeled as gay and the story concerns on what he does to survive the labelling.  Things do not help that his father (Kyle MacLachlan of BLUE VELVET) has recently come out gay and his mother (Maria Bello who also co-produced this film), has written the book “Whatever… Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves”.

It all started off at Franky’s 17th birthday party when his girlfriend, Natasha (Taylor Hickson) leaves after the incident in which they both fail to lose their virginity.  Her brother, Ballas (Darren Mann) also on Franky’s swim team spreads the rumour that Franky may be gay.  That is when all the trouble starts.  And continues through the film.

Behrman is brave enough to attempt certain daring lines in his script.  In one key family scene, when Frank is told his visiting gay father has been told of the incident, he storms out of the room screaming: “I am not f***ing gay!”  The words that might offend a portion of the gay audience are left intact to emphasize the emotions Franky is undergoing.  Credit to Behrman.  The film also shows the teens behaving maturely, as adults thug still dealing with teen issues.  This aspect of the film shows that teens demand more respect as adults.

Excellent performances are delivered by all the young performers aided by Bello and MacLachlan.  MacLachlan does not have many scenes but he creates quite the impact in those he is in.

So how does it all end?  Is there a message for the audience?  Revealing more would definitely be a spoiler to what is an excellent paced and remarkably moving film about coming-of-age, acceptance, family acceptance and a whole lot more issues.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4481066/videoplayer/vi1848097561?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

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Film Review: HUNTING PIGNUT (Canada 2016)

Hunting Pignut Poster

Bernice, a 15 year old misfit runs away from her rural Newfoundland community in search of Pignut, a tormented and violent gutter punk, after he steals her father’s ashes right out of his urn.

Director:

Martine Blue

Writer:

Martine Blue

Stars:

Taylor HicksonJoel Thomas HynesBridget Wareham

HUNTING PIGNUT can be considered a true female project (from Newfoundland, Canada) with a female writer and director Martine Blue and two strong female protagonists. It is also Blue’s first feature and an autobiographical one at that. It is therefore not surprising that the film won Best First Feature at the Arizona International Film Festival and Best Canadian Feature at the Female Eye Film Festival.

The story centres on 15-year-old Bernice Kilfoy (rising star Taylor Hickson, fresh from her debut DEADPOOL). She hates her life in tiny, isolated Black Gut, Newfoundland. She believes that she will never live down a traumatic childhood that left her body and psyche deeply scarred. Bean (Amelia Manuel), her mother, tries to be a friend but is too busy struggling to get ahead. Self-centred, lonely, starved for attention and shunned by her peers, Bernice, who is bullied and constantly being beaten up, makes up stories about hanging out with her dad, of whom she hasn’t seen in 10 years. Her dejected spirit takes a strange turn when her dad dies of a heroin overdose and Pignut (Joel Thomas Hynes), a nihilistic gutter punk, shows up for his wake.

The death and funeral service occurs at the start of the film. The service is crashed by Pignuts punk friends who are thrown out of the funeral hall. It is discovered that they have stolen the father’s ashes.

Bernice stumbles upon Pignut’s writing journal and becomes obsessed with discovering more about her father, his mysterious facial tattoo, his best friend Pignut and their clan of nomadic gutter punks. Bernice embarks on an odyssey to hunt down her father’s ashes and to discover her place in his heart and in the world.

The best thing of the film is the depiction of the punk gutter scene. Director Blue drew on her previous experiences when she herself was in this scene. These people, squatted, panhandled and ate food from garbage dumpsters.

Bernice is shown in the film as a rebel who dives into the group, which initially rejects her due to her age.

The trouble with the film is that the story is not credible and filled with too may coincidences. The mother, Bean is genuinely trying to make an effort to connect with her daughter and it is hard to believe that Bernice still shuns her. When Bean travels to the city to find Bernice, she finds her out of the blue in a building doing drugs. The chances of this happening is close to negligible. In another scene after Bernice is beaten up by a punk ember, the cops happen to be right there.

At least Hickson and Manuel deliver winning performances as daughter and mother. Comedienne Mary Walsh, who happens to be appearing in anything Newfoundland has a cameo in the film.

Despite the film’s well intentions, like attempting to show love within the punk group, the film fails from its careless writing. The film benefits from a strong female presence but HUNTING PIGNUT deserves much better.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKSGAmuBTN8