Have you ever felt suffocated by the small town you grew up in? Yearned to leave and pursue your dreams but terrified of failing? That’s the dilemma facing 15 year-old Lily Hobart (Juno Temple) and Alison Hoffman (Kay Panabaker), best friends living under the hot, desert sun on the barren shores of Southern California’s inland Salton Sea.
Self-destructively prone to cutting herself, rebellious Lily lives with her single mother (Leslie Mann, a.k.a. Mrs. Judd Apatow), who tries to get her psychiatric help but is preoccupied with her own life and that of Lily’s distraught aunt (Kate Bosworth), who’s trying to care for a toddler and a husband suffering from severe brain damage as a result of a war injury. Far more sensible Alison dwells nearby with her severely depressed widower father (David Warshofsky) and tends horses for a rancher named Hogan (Neal McDonough), who serves as her father-surrogate.
One day, their girls’ daily boredom is broken by the unexpected arrival of skateboarders who have found a drained pool to play in. Lily is immediately smitten with Jesse (Kyle Gallner). Determined, she convinces reluctant Alison to steal Hogan’s old, battered truck and drive to Los Angeles to join Jesse and his runaway pals who have become squatters in an abandoned motel. That’s how the sheltered girls are introduced to the sordid street life of petty crime and dangerous scams that are destined to spin out of control when the boys decide to use pretty Lily as nubile bait to lure men and steal their money.
Homeless in Boston as a teenager, writer/director Elgin James developed this semi-autobiographical screenplay at Sundance Institute. In 2009, he won a Time Fellowship Grant as well as an Annenberg Feature Film Fellow Grant and was recently named one of Ioncinema.com’s “American New Wave 25” and selected as one of Variety’s 2011 “Directors to Watch.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Little Birds” is a fragile 5, as the lifelong friendship forged between two innocent girls is tested when they venture into a volatile, violent world.