Saturday, May 2, 2015

Movie Review: Little Boy

It is not often I write movie reviews. In fact, you might find it weird to see me post one on this blog. This film is an exception as it addresses a philosophical understanding. Not only that, but its themes cover the everyday social life and proper response in today's racist and anti-poor world. I do believe many critics will unjustly hate in their own form of racism on the basis of it being a "Christian movie," but if that's the case, any movie that merely has a Christian in it should be considered a Christian movie because this does no evangelizing. In fact, they never tell you which denomination this movie has. Instead, it uses your cultural knowledge to realize that this is a realistic setting and story. Anyways, I should get on with the review.

The movie is set in WWII California. Within the first few minutes you learn of most of the main cast and its themes. The main one advertise is Faith. One thing I love about this film is that it not only addresses the misunderstandings of the concept, but it uses them to its advantage. The childish innocence of the main character is perfect and was well-performed. the beauty of childhood, as this movie subtly reveals, is the hopefulness. The movie does a great job contrasting how people act with hope and how those without cope.

Another theme is the love between a child and his father. This actually ends up being the catalyst for everything. This too is shown through the actions of various characters, some of whom you may not realize until you sit back and then it hits you. No two people give the exact same response in any of these themes and so helps convince the audience that it's a real story.
You might have some tears due to the powerful performances concerning this love
The last theme is actually two concepts linked together and those are Racism and Friendship. In this movie, you can't talk about one without understanding the other. Like I said, the main advertisements focus on faith, but I think they would do well to advertise the racial elements as well. After all, how many movies do you know that talks about how the U.S. treated Americans of Japanese descent during the war? This movie covers it very well and focuses not only on the Japanese character's humanity, but also how he is a good friend.

As I mentioned before, the love between a child and his father is what prompts the developments of the whole movie. As the father goes to war, this little child, portrayed beautifully by Jakob Salvati, hears about the well-known saying about the "Faith of a mustard seed." Believing that if he has enough faith, he can bring his father back, he begins his quest to grow it. His given task by the local man of influence, befriend the Japanese man whom the entire town, including titular Little Boy, hates simply because of his heritage.

To do this, he is tasked with doing acts of human kindness, known to some as Corporal Acts of Mercy. This list includes Feeding the Hungry, Shelter the Homeless, Visit the Sick, etc. As he performs these actions, the audience gradually witnesses he and the Japanese man becoming friends. Hence, the truth of being humane on both sides overcomes racism and leads to friendship is portrayed and certainly something we need to learn in today's society. (A bit of trivia: it's a really quick glimpse so I am not entirely sure, but in typical directorial fashion, inside the Japanese man's house, there's a banner with the Japanese characters for Friendship, 友情).

The element of faith is shown throughout the film and how one event spurs different responses from different people. In general, these lead up to some of the humorous scenes or small bits of dialogue. While it is indeed predictable, the quality of the acting makes it enjoyable to watch anyway. I saw the movie twice (the first being quite a while now) and while I did not laugh as much as the first time, I did feel some strings on my heart pulled watching the solid performances.
It also shows how comics and heroes inspire children
As I mentioned before, Jakob is the real star among the cast though his name is not recognizable. Likewise, I doubt many have heard of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa but his performance also is phenomenal as the agnostic man who doesn't let his victim hood degrade his humanity, just like Jakob in his bullying situation. Emily Watson, who plays a character named Emma (that must have been a joke about the typical confusion between the two actresses), portrays the typical 1940's mother who is capable of knocking some sense into her teenage son. David Henrie also does a great job of playing the older brother named London and the dynamic that results from all of the events. By the end, despite the hair color difference, that he is a brother to the little boy named Pepper. As the priest, Tom Wilkinson was perfect both vocally and visually.

Now when you have all of these famous names, that might affect how you judge their acting. Believe me though when I say that I didn't know any of these celebrities that I just mentioned. I thought some looked familiar but that was more thinking they looked like some old friends. The two actors I knew of, I missed their performances due to their very small roles. Hence, you could say I have very little bias in judging their performances. Now whether my critical eye is so great is another story.

The end result is what I consider to be a timeless story. While the action sets might not be perfect to the typical action fans, when you consider them from the eye of a child, they are just as they should be. The overall glow of some scenes help sell the nostalgia effect of a man reflecting on his life. Now is there anything that might offend people? When it comes to the racism, the film does not hold back but it also never encourages it. If you want to talk to your child about racism, this is a good place to start. The result is that we realize we were not perfect in the 1940's and how war causes unjust pain on the homefront. However, the presence of this evil makes it all the more sweeter when it is overcome by the innocence of a small child.

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