By Andrew Burns, Contributor
[Charlie Guidance; 2016]
Little Men follows the relationship of two eighth graders, whose parents are in a complex situation regarding rent. Jake, the main character, is the son of the owners of the space where a dress shop is set up. Tony, Jake’s best friend, is the son of the owner of the dress shop. Jake’s parents need more rent money to stay afloat, but Tony’s mom can not pay more without closing the dress shop. There is a somewhat uninteresting conflict between the parents, but the way this conflict affects the children is compelling. The movie does not do a particularly good job emulating childhood with the two main characters, but it is not hard for one to project their own experiences and memories on to the characters. The idea of a difficult situation between parents tearing childhood friends apart is troubling as childhood exists in many viewers’ minds as a halcyon period of growth and happiness before life’s troubles bring one down.
Perhaps the title of Little Men is to imply that the kids have the maturity of adult males. That the two boys are not kids, but little men. Maybe that was the point, or maybe childhood is too far away for most writers and capturing the essence of childhood a near impossible task. The two main boys in Little Men are hardly children. They talk about pragmatic approaches to achieving their dreams and the complex status of the one boy’s parents’ marital status. One scene is a near duplicate of many night club scenes in movies about adults. The night club scene is droll, but compromises any remaining childlike qualities these kids have. It is interesting to see how the interactions between children’s parents can affect the relationship of the children, but it would have been more effective with more convincingly written children.
The film hints at a theme of discovering one’s sexuality, but never fully develops on it. Tony likes a girl and it is hinted that Jake is still discovering his sexual identity. This would have been an interesting coming of age theme to include in the movie, but it is a missed opportunity. Little Men is a subtle film trying to communicate themes and problems slowly, which is great, but the film does not fully communicate its ideas and feels like an incomplete thought.