little man Review
By Rachel Gordon
Nicole Conn, a director known in some circles for her feature film Claire of the Moon turns the lens on her own family to document the tension and struggles of parenting a doomed infant with her partner Gwen.Conn and Gwen already have one child, Gabrielle, through artificial insemination. Raising her gives Conn the urgency to have another, but as neither of them can carry anymore, she hires a surrogate to get pregnant using her eggs. The substitute's health turns out to not be as strong as expected, and they are forced into pushing a 5 1/2-month, 1-pound child, into the universe well before he's ready to be here. They are given fair warning of possible health issues and birth defects, and though Gwen would prefer to give up on the child, Conn refuses to do so.little man, named for the baby in question -- Nicholas -- is difficult to watch for a number of reasons which also make it such a respectable piece of work. It's provocative as we see each succeeding dilemma of whether to save this child the pain of all the trouble his preemie status is causing for him. The use of technology on the little guy turns your stomach, even as these same techniques are marvelous for what can be accomplished now versus just a few years ago. As you watch Conn through successive hospital visits and involvement, you're constantly questioning whether or not her self-described obsession with him is love or selfish cruelty. As she questions it herself, the moral ramifications increase in intensity.The life outside of Nicholas' medical needs isn't quite as engaging, however. While it's necessary to have some breathing room away from the turmoil of the poor little creature, repeatedly hearing about the distress between Conn and her partner gets monotonous. The extra chats on the couches with specialists, attendants, and friends aren't much help either, though they infrequently provide fascinating medical information we wouldn't otherwise know.But in a way, these distracting discussions get you to really think about the entire situation. Your mind wanders to all sorts of questions while images of wires and feeding tubes flash by your eyes, such as any possible neglect Gabrielle could suffer at the expense of her unfortunate brother. What do we consider a "quality life" for a child? Just how far would we go for a damaged child and how would we feel about ourselves if we gave up?Though little man might have been a tighter film had Conn not talked directly to the camera so much nor had people tried to express themselves to her in front of it, it is still able to powerfully bring to mind some touching issues and blur the line of hard decision making. The strongest premise of all, amidst the controversy covered in the film, is evoked with relatively little exposition. That is the invisible chord that attaches a mother to her child, unconditionally, through thick and thin. It's a bond that is so rarely, and simply, captured on film, and regardless of whether you agree with Conn's desperate motives, that attachment is impressively woven into the perplexities that surround little Nicholas' existence.