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Little Man (2005)
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by Jason Whyte

"A terrific thesis for an absolutely dreadful documentary."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. I will never forget an assembly I had in high school in grade 10. Prior to the school get-together, a student at the school was killed in a horrible car crash in my home town. So naturally, everyone is suddenly all up in arms about car crashes this week, to which the school calls the typical assembly to tell us that car crashes are bad and evil.

They bring in a man who was not involved with this particular crash, but about 10 years previous had his daughter killed in a similar accident. As he introduced himself and explained who he was, I felt a bit saddened to hear his story; that is until he began a video presentation on car crashes that was wall-to-wall filled with clichés. “It can happen to you!” “It can all end in an instant.” “One moment you’re eating a sandwich, the next moment you’re dead meat.” (Okay, I made the last one up but it’s one of my favourite lines from “Dumb and Dumber”.) The host then followed up all of his points with the same clichés, one after the other for about half an hour, until students started to fight snickering laughter under their breath. The point was made 15 minutes ago, but here we were getting the redundancy forced down our throats.

I make mention of this story because that’s exactly how I felt after watching the documentary “Little Man”. Here is a nearly two-hour film about the progress of an infant born nearly 100 days early that could have made all of its points within the span of an hour or so, but instead we are given an extended look into a lesbian couple who clearly test our patience with their own.

Conn is a mother of one who wants to have another child with her partner Gwen. Their donor is a woman who has had previous physical problems but declines to release the details. So when baby Nicolas is born so early, he is rushed into the NICU ward in the Cedars Sinai hospital and is put on life support. Some of the footage of a tiny Nicolas, whose heart is about the size of a cashew and his feet about the size of a dime, is really amazing to see. What’s even more amazing is the lengths that Nicole will go to be near her son, sometimes even getting in the way of the nurses and paediatricians that are striving to help the tiny little infant.

I cared about the plight to a degree, and yet the film’s problem is we don’t have a better documentary crew filming the entire goings-on. Here is an interesting subject but every last nook and cranny is from the people involved, and at times it feels too much like reality television.

Ms. Conn directs the film as well as conducting the interviews, which is a bad idea since we don’t really have any perspective on the situation and rather just the non-objective views of the filmmakers. Many of the interviewee’s were conducted with their heads tilted in odd directions to wherever Conn is sitting in the room. Add to that, we have a lot of people being interviewed referring to the interviewer directly. “We noticed that you (referring to Nicole Conn) were in the hospital” or “We think that you were essential in helping Nicolas getting the treatment he deserved” almost forces our opinions on Conn directly.

Conn also goes for the teary-eyed sentimentality approach, giving us endless close-up shots of Nicolas as well as some of the most grating use of baby talk I’ve ever endured in a film. Yes, we understand that the progress of Nicolas is very important and any time that they can hold or baby talk to him is important. But really, less is more.

The story is a very sad one, and I’m glad to hear that Nicole Conn and his partner Gwen have survived the ordeal. But why do the documentary so suddenly, when the infant is still having problems? And why do it themselves if for no other reason they want to show the process (certainly there are better documentary filmmakers that they could hire?). Doing a docu about five years after the fact would have worked in their favour so we could get the entire story. And ironically, it might have worked even better at about two-thirds the running time. I can only imagine these people at a school assembly.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13243&reviewer=350
originally posted: 11/04/05 02:15:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/29/06 cris derrick This film had me in tears, both sad and happy. Nicolas is a blessing to us all. 5 stars
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Directed by
  Nicole Conn

Written by
  Nicole Conn


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