“It get me down sometime. It get me down but only, a little look around and I find that I am not so lonely. We in the same boat brother! We in the same boat brother!” — Don Cooper, from the song “My Images Come”
In his 1948 study “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” Dr. Alfred Kinsey reported that everyone is bisexual to one degree or another and that this can be measured on a scale from 0 to 6. While sexual fluidity has grown in acceptance, it has not yet been explored in film to any great degree. Canadian director Keith Behrman’s Giant Little Ones, however, in his first film since his 2002 indie “Flowers and Garnet,” celebrates the complexities of life and relationships in the story of popular teenagers Franky Winter (Josh Wiggins, “Walking Out”) and Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” TV series). Best friends since childhood, their relationship is severely tested when they engage in oral sex after heavy drinking at Franky’s 16th birthday party, an incident that leads both to question their orientation.
The experience, which would normally be quickly buried, is inflamed when a fearful Ballas, hearing rumors and worried about having his masculinity challenged, betrays his lifelong friendship with Franky, spreading stories around the school that Franky was responsible for what occurred. The seduction scene is shown so quickly, however, that it is uncertain as to what actually took place. All we see is a darkened room and the movement of bodies under a blanket. A confused Franky becomes the target of abuse from his classmates, abuse that threatens his self esteem and puts a damper on his relationship with his girlfriend Cil (Hailey Kittle, “Falling Water” TV series), who had expected to lose her virginity on the night of Franky’s birthday party.
The only support he finds is in his sweet relationship with Ballas’ sister Natasha (Taylor Hickson, “Everything, Everything”), whose own experience of bullying left her fearful of becoming close with another person. Franky’s struggle for self-acceptance is also helped by his humorous relationship with Mouse (Niamh Wilson, “Saw V”), a trans friend who is there for more than comic relief. She personifies for Franky what it means to own one’s sexuality and not be overburdened by what others think about her. Also lending support is Franky’s father Ray, (Kyle MacLachlan, “High Flying Bird”) who left the home to move in with another man.
Protective of his mother Carly (Maria Bello, “Lights Out”) and resentful of his father’s sudden departure, it requires a long time for Franky to be willing to allow Ray to support him, but eventually, in a scene made real by MacLachlan’s compassion and Wiggins raw sensitivity, a deeply-felt conversation takes place and is one of the film’s high points. While Giant Little Ones succeeds in moving the needle in a positive direction, it nonetheless falls prey to some of the more clichéd aspects of the coming-of-age genre such as high schools filled with affluent, white students, actors who look closer to thirty years old than fifteen, stereotypes of alpha male high school jocks, and a host of badly undeveloped peripheral characters.
The heart and the message of the film, however, transcend its limitations. Franky’s growing ability to just be himself without having to fit into a rigid category is an important one and, to its credit, it is an ambiguity that Behrman does not find it necessary to clear up. Like the poet Charles Bukowski, Franky could say, “Something in me relaxed, smoothed out. I no longer had to prove that I was a man. I didn’t have to prove anything.” Like a rocket in a fireworks July, the flares that Franky and Natasha fire into the sky do not soar upwards in a straight line but bend in noticeable arcs before bursting into a bright red flame.