Two nameless teenagers meet during a cold suburban American winter. The cold around them seems to cocoon them in their own beautiful bubble as they meet up at school, go on walks, kiss in their bedrooms. They fall deeply in love, their emotion transfiguring the world around them in their images.
But like in many relationships, the bliss of young love begins to transform into something more grounded and realistic, leading to a sense of restlessness. They begin to fight and grow apart despite their powerful love and attraction. And as the ice around them begins to chip and break, so does their relationship.
Writer-director Jared Hogan’s short romantic drama is a love story, but its most striking asset is its ravishing images and sustained atmosphere of dreaminess and fantasy. A triumph of mood and pure cinematic beauty, it captures through stunning images and elegiac cinematography the amazing and immersive experience of young love, in all its passion and poeticism.
The lovers’ world is private, insular and incredibly intimate — not to mention photographed with a painterly sense of detail — and it’s no surprise that neither want to leave it, or have it change in any way. But of course the initial spell is broken, either through the natural passing of time or the exertion of two different personalities, and the film’s images burnish along with that initial idealism, getting darker and grittier as the tenor of the relationship changes.
What’s remarkable is that “Small Little Things” traces this emotional arc primarily through its visuals, as well as through its haunting, lovely score. Though the film has very little dialogue, Hogan’s eye has a feel for the perfectly evocative gesture, the sidelong glance, or the way a landscape can mirror an emotional interior — and the result is pure cinematic magic, where the interplay of sound and moving images captures the textures of first love, in all its beauty and trauma.