Giant Little Ones
2019, R, 94 min. Directed by Keith Behrman. Starring Josh Wiggins, Maria Bello, Kyle MacLachlan, Taylor Hickson, Peter Outerbridge, Niamh Wilson, Darren Mann.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 22, 2019
Franky (Wiggins) and Ballas (Mann) are the toast of their high school swim team, so it could be a cliche out of a yaoi manga when they get drunk and hook up at a birthday party. But this middle American small-town tale of young gay lust doesn't take the expected turns, when everyone in school finds out and it's less of a big deal than anyone – most especially Franky – expects. Instead of the court of public opinion, it's the young man himself (by turns bashful, angry, and confused), trying to work out how much he must redefine who he is, that causes the tumult.
Bisexual coming out stories are basically nonexistent in cinema, and that would be enough to set Giant Little Ones apart from the pack. But that's just one element of a wider story, told with a charming earnestness, about sexuality as a spectrum. Characters are gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, happy, damaged, hurt, inquisitive. Meanwhile, the greatest vein of awkward humor comes from Franky's friendship with Mouse (Wilson), who's been experimenting with wearing a sock cock, and whose purely academic interest in what Franky's packing is a source of cringe-inducing giggles. It's a little light relief from a story that absolutely sticks to the lessons of nonjudgmental joy and pain that it's trying to teach.
That humor takes a while to emerge. Writer/director Keith Behrman covers the opening with a shroud of dread that sometimes feels disturbingly close to the bigoted horror captured by Kimberly Peirce in Boys Don't Cry. Yet the violence here is of the emotional kind, much self-inflicted by Franky and some of it tied up with his complicated feelings toward his father (MacLachlan, heartbreakingly sweet), who came out late in life. That so many people are trying to be understanding is almost harder for Franky to handle than the outright and open homophobia of some of his teammates. But what's important, and what makes Giant Little Ones worth the emotional investment, is that they'll be there for him when he wants them.