Before a private screening, co-producer Eduardo Verastegui said that one of the goals they wanted to accomplish in his new film, “Little Boy” was a living Norman Rockwell painting, depicting America in all of its idyllic warmth. The heartwarming film achieved that and so much more.
Set in 1940s California, “Little Boy” follows a—to put it in modern politically correct parlance—vertically-challenged kid as he copes with his father going off to war and the racism and nationalism that go along with such a traumatic experience.
The adorable little boy believes that he can will his father back from the war and a local priest confirms this, but with a caveat—he must improve his relationship with God in order to get his wish and that means doing the things Jesus asked of us: feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and visit those in prison. The first task is to befriend the Japanese-American he had vandalized with his xenophobic brother in an earlier scene.
After some resistance, the little boy does befriend the Japanese man and he slowly checks off all the items on his list, getting closer to his goal of bringing his father back from war, step by step. Of course, life isn’t always as idyllic as a Norman Rockwell painting and the film delves into the tragedies that must accompany such heavy topics. Just a warning, my wife doesn’t cry at movies, but couldn’t hold back the tears for this one.
One of the overarching themes of the film is belief, something that resonated with me, having just finished my spiritual novel Now and at the Hour of Our Death. In a brilliant opening scene, our diminutive protagonist believes he can make things move with his mind. A priest puts a bottle on the table and asks the kid to prove it—to move the bottle with his mind. After some ardent struggling and grinding of teeth by the child, the priest moves the bottle for him. “There you did it.” But the little boy rejected the obvious ploy; he hadn’t moved the bottle—the priest had. But the priest replied that since the boy wanted it so much, that it had compelled the priest to move the bottle. One could say that that’s exactly how God works. No, you’re not actually changing the state of the world with your earnest prayers and wishes, but if you want it hard enough, God will change the world for you. This is just an example of the thought-provoking material that accompanies the heartwarming story.
The film isn’t perfect. At times, the story felt too complex with several overlapping ideas jumbled together without enough time to fully breathe, but that doesn’t take away from the overall experience. It is an expertly-acted, family-friendly film with a beautiful message. “The Little Boy” will make you laugh, it make you cry, and, if you let it, the film will give you something deeply profound to think about.