‘Little Girl’ (2021) Review – ‘A stunningly heartbreaking yet optimistic documentary’

Little Girl (2020) Music Box

Directed By: Sébastien Lifshitz

Plot Summary: Little Girl is the moving portrait of 7-year-old Sasha, who has always known that she is a girl. Sasha’s family has recently accepted her gender identity, embracing their daughter for who she truly is while working to comfort outdated norms and find affirmation in a small community of rural France. Realized with delicacy and intimacy, Sébastien Lifshitz’s documentary poetically explores emotional challenges, everyday feats, and small moments in Sasha’s life.

Anyone who knows me knows that I adore fringe cinema, and by that, I mean horror, sci-fi, fantasy. But I love exploring other genres that span different cultural viewpoints and, of course LGBTQIA subject matter. 2020’s Little Girl not only ticks all those boxes, but it’s a movie that I feel proud to give a platform to. Director Sébastien Lifshitz captures an incredibly moving and at times devastating portrait that is so vital for all walks of life to see. Lifshitz thankfully provides a thoughtful film that doesn’t feel exploitative. The main thread of the film explores the upcoming school year and if Sasha can be allowed to present as female or will have to transfer to another school. The stakes are high as Sasha understandably doesn’t want to switch schools and leave behind her friends. Though a justifiably harsh light is cast on the school, it never feels like Lifshitz has an axe to grind personally.

Indeed, there is another example where, later on in the film, Sasha is flat out barred from presenting as female to her ballet school. The movie presents this as tragic but never carries a chip on its shoulder. Rather, it merely shows the kind of ugly side of narrow-minded people that Sasha will sadly have to face in her life. The movie never sugarcoats it, Sasha is going to have to overcome very hate-filled people. In fact, one of the most heartbreaking moments is hearing Sasha’s mother say, “I know my child’s going to be attacked someday.” But, on the flip side of that is the fact that she has an incredibly warm, understanding family and support system. And, for as emotionally jarring, Lifshitz doesn’t wallow in the negative. In fact, I came away feeling a sense of optimism. The mere fact that Sasha’s friends seem to accept her much easier than some adults makes me hopeful in this future generation. I also liked how the filmmakers captured the quiet little moments that often make up the fabric of our lives. Little Girl never aims to be a big splashy documentary, yet, tells the story of a beautiful soul brave enough to be who she is. And, she is so lucky to have fierce family members in her corner for this journey. Speaking of, I love how much the parents were involved in this project and, I think the movie is a must-watch for parents who are struggling with understanding a trans-child, as the film provides easy answers in plain speak.

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Little Girl is a stunningly heartbreaking yet optimistic documentary and one that I hope everyone sees. Seriously, even if this isn’t the kind of movie you would typically watch, just give it a chance. The subject of trans-children is one that seems to be not tackled a lot sadly, making this feel vital.

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