Crickets. They’re all that can be heard above the swish of bathwater as Little Birds opens, and the sound is an apt introduction to the sleepy Salton Sea, CA, town where the film begins. For a couple of restless 15-year-old locals, Lily (Juno Temple) and Alison (Kay Panabaker), the depressing surroundings are just too much to bear. So when a chance encounter with some street kids en route to L.A. offers them a way out, they take it.
Despite the sweeping vistas of seascapes and weeds swaying in the breeze, viewers will feel suffocated by the Salton Sea, and this is where film editor Suzanne Spangler’s repetitious style works the best. “I just want something to happen,” Lily complains, before embarking on a voyage that perfectly captures the torture of being 15—that seemingly endless spiral of humiliation, budding breasts, and lust for every boy in a Nirvana T-shirt.
What helps Little Birds retain its innocence is the girls’ mixed sense of fear and liberation that comes from their new experience. Lily wears a tough exterior, but facing a new crush, her hard smirk fades into a doe-eyed pout. I wanted more closure from this film beyond its melancholy coming-of-age truths. But perhaps that’s a testament to its success—Little Birds will leave viewers wishing they could squeeze just a little bit more out of their adventure.
By Olivia Saperstein
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