“Giant Little Ones”

A Post-Gay Film

Amos Lassen

“Giant Little Ones” is a post-gay look at adolescence. Franky Winter (Josh Wiggins) is on the swim team at school and the guys are close—they shower together, shave together and sling homophobic slurs together, apparently without irony. Franky’s best friend Ballas (Darren Mann) is on the swim team too and they do almost everything together. For Franky’s 17th birthday he is planning something without Ballas–the loss of his virginity to his girlfriend who is nice enough and pretty enough but she is  not that interesting.

Franky’s mom, Carly (Maria Bello) leaves the house unattended for the party but things don’t go exactly as planned, and at the end of the night it’s just Franky and Ballas, like the sleepovers of their childhood. Except this one ends in a blow job. In the morning, Franky is surprised by this turn of events, but Ballas is ashamed, upset and angry. Nic destroys their friendship, and Franky’s reputation, and makes Franky’s life at school hell. The only person who doesn’t desert him is Ballas’s sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson).

It is refreshing to see Franky’s openness to this experience.  Franky doesn’t question his identity, he just absorbs it as part of it. It doesn’t need a label or a judgement. But there is a complication: Franky’s father, Ray, (Kyle MacLachlan) has recently left the family because he’s gay. Franky’s resentment is mostly due to the abandonment and not the sexuality, but his feelings are complicated and confused and it makes dealing with this more difficult than it has to be.

Over all the film is a refreshing take on the coming of age and coming out of the closet stories of adolescence. Franky quickly approaches a turning point in realizing his sexual identity as he approaches his seventeenth birthday. His sort-of girlfriend Cil (Hailey Kittie) desperately wants the mark the occasion by losing their virginity together, but Franky isn’t in a rush to get it on with his girl. He is taking his time in coming into his own as a sexual being. Director Keith Berhman’s portrait of the confusing time of adolescence is at its most authentic when it gives Wiggins lingering pauses and moments to explore his character’s self-doubts.

Ballas is virile and muscular, a true alpha male compared to the smaller, shyer Franky. The camera lingers on him as director Berhman peppers the film with brief moments of curiosity as Franky looks at his friend with a view that isn’t quite longing, but not necessarily platonic. It’s one of questioning. Nic loves to boast about his sex life, like bragging about doing it six times in one night, but it also seems like a bit of an act that insecure jocks are prone to explore.

Soon the night of Franky’s birthday arrives and there are no fireworks to be had with Cil. Ballas, ever a good BFF, keeps Franky company as they ride their bikes through their small town. The boys simply enjoy the recklessness of their youth and explore that fleeting period between adolescence and adulthood, zipping through the streets, and being loud. Ballas presents Franky with his birthday gift: a flare gun, which they fire into the night and watch as the sky burns.

Later in the evening, moans of pleasure are seen and heard in Franky’s bedroom. It’s a confusing and disorienting moment, and purposefully before Ballas erupts from the covers and flees. The boys have crossed a line and explored a new side of their friendship.

What follows from the intimate tryst is an all-too relevant tale of bullying and homophobia in a culture that preaches openness and fluidity, but practices intolerance and conservatism. Franky becomes ostracized in his high school, considered to be a deviant, terrible, and wrong. Something beautiful becomes something horrible as Franky is pushed into his sexuality rather allowed the right to discover it for himself. 

We see sexual fluidity with refreshing candor as Franky further explores the dimensions of his identity. He develops a relationship with Ballas’s younger sister Tasha and this teaches him the values of intimacy and consent. His parents wrestle with their own questions of love and self-acceptance as his mother Carly finds herself in a revolving door of dates years after Franky’s father, Ray, discovered that he was gay. Through each of the film’s relationships, Behrman injects elements that allow Franky to understand himself within a growing conversation on the inclusiveness of sexuality. 

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