MY LITTLE ONE (Desert) (Switzerland 2019) ***
Directed by Frédéric Choffat and Julie Gilbert
In films when foreigners arrive in another land, they do weird things whilst they themselves are deemed weird. In MY LITTLE ONE. Alex and Bernardo, who are summoned to the Arizona desert by Jade, a woman they both loved but haven’t seen in 10 years. The opening scene where they meet each other in the Arizona desert seating French should invoke enough curiosity. The desert is captured on camera in all its barren intensity and stark landscape by Pietro Zuercher’s camera.
Directors Choffat and Gilbert have worked together before in THE REAL LIFE IS ELSEWHERE and MANGROVE. The male and female team make a good balance at the look of this story involving two male friends who have a relationship with a woman. The film does not take the woman nor man/s side in the matter. Each gender is equally responsible.
The most entertaining feature of the film is the treatment of the native Navajo tribe of the desert. Director Choffat spent his early years in the Moroccan desert and Gilbert, daughter of an ethnologist, spent much of her childhood in connection with different native groups in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. Treatment of the Navajo is smart and funny. The Navajo actors are nothing short of superb, stealing the scene from the European counterparts. Ruby Matenko who plays the little one of the film title is a real find. Her dialogue makes her a precocious child.
It does not take a genius to guess the reason Alex and Bernardo are summed to the desert by their lover. Jade is very sick and is dying. She needs one of them, as any one of them could be the father to look after the little one. This reason is revealed to the audience at mid-point in the film, and unfortunately the film struggles to maintain its interest so carefully constructed after that. Even the child actor Matenko, trying now to look as a child needing sympathy lacks the spark she displayed initially as the smart-talking kid.
The two men and Jade argue with the predictable drama expected with this relationship theme. But it is the filmmakers' decision to film in the native Navajo land and the hiring of the Navajo people that makes the film stand out. Despite a few minor flaws, MY LITTLE ONE is still worth a look.
The film has already made its market debut in Hong Kong’s Filmart and was released in Swiss Theatres. The film was an Official Selection of the following festivals: Five Lakes Film Festival Germany, Miami Film Festival, International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg, and B3 Biennal of the Moving Image.
MY LITTLE ONE opens on SVOD ((Vimeo, Amazon US, Amazon Canada and Tubi with additional platforms to follow) on April 26, 2022.