Not ten minutes into last night’s special screening of Little Birds and we were already holding back tears. Directed by Elgin James, the film follows two teenage girls on a quest to escape the pain and boredom of their life in a trailer park. Lily, in a breathtaking performance by Juno Temple, who coincidentally enough, graces the pages of our upcoming Romance Issue, plays a vivacious yet disturbed 15 year old determined to follow three destructive boys to Los Angeles, leaving Alison (Kay Panabaker) with no choice but to protect her.
The film explores similar themes of the director’s childhood, as James ran away from his own broken home at a young age to the streets of Boston, eventually starting the famous FSU gang. He led a life of rampant violence and Robin Hood-like thievery for more than ten years, until he moved to LA and met Little Birds producer Jamie Patricof. Patricof is also responsible for producing such similarly moving titles as Blue Valentine and Half Nelson.
But even those without a volatile upbringing will find Little Birds relatable. Kate Bosworth and Leslie Mann create the dysfunctional family that somehow manages to be endearing. Panabaker depicts the innocent uncertainty of adolescence to a tee, and Temple effortlessly embodies a runaway train of disillusionment in a performance that proves she is destined for onscreen greatness. Combine that with striking cinematography and an evocative soundtrack, and the film could form a bittersweet window into anyone’s past. And just like that, we were teenagers again.