It's difficult to describe just how much I loved César Award-winning short film Little Hands, which has arrived stateside and is eligible for this year's Academy Awards here in the United States. Co-written and directed by Rémi Allier, Little Hands is a remarkable effort featuring one of those rare child performances that will linger in your psyche' and linger in your heart long after the film's closing credits have rolled.
The film tells the story of two-year-old Leo (Emile Moulron Lejeune), the son of a local factory manager who's just shared the news that the factory is about to close. One of the factory's more radical workers, Bruno (Jan Hammenecker), sees an opportunity and abducts Leo in an effort to force negotiations.
Little Hands is a remarkable film, one of those rare works of wonder that left tears in my eyes and images of young Leo floating through my brain long after I'd watched the film. While one can certainly argue about the concept of "acting," there's simply no denying that young Emile Moulron Lejeune is simply remarkable here and will win your hearts over and over and over again in the course of the film's 15-minute running time.
Allier has crafted one of the year's absolute best live-action short films, a film that is both frightening and tender, harried and remarkably patient. It's easily one of the best short films I've seen in 2019.
Seen largely through the lens of Leo, Little Hands explores the world through Leo's eyes as he experiences the impulsive, violent action of adults. When Leo meets Bruno, it is impossible to not be frightened. As adult moviegoers, we can't help but view this story through our own life-weary, cynical lens and it is in these moments that Leo's wide-eyed presence and impossible to fathom innocence fills the screen and wins our hearts and, in some ways, the heart of Bruno.
Allier has pulled from Emile Moulron Lejeune the same kind of vulnerable, beautiful performance served up by Victoire Thivisol in Ponette, another film I will simply never forget. Yet, I don't want to ignore the remarkable performance of Jan Hammenecker, whose transformation here is remarkable and largely communicated through body language and facial expressions and things left unspoken. Hammenecker is simply, absolutely remarkable here. Steve Driesen and Sandrine Blancke also deserve major kudos here, their characters not given much range yet their performances nonetheless remarkable.
Lensing by Kinan Massarani is simply sublime; Leo Dupleix's original score for the film is absolute perfection. Nicolas Bier's editing for the film builds tension in all the right places, yet also infuses the film with its tenderness and wonder.
An up-and-coming filmmaker currently working toward his first feature film, Remi Allier has crafted a remarkable effort with Little Hands, proof that you can tell a remarkable, complete and engrossing story within the framework of a short film and have it be the kind of story that stays in your heart and in your mind.
For more information on Little Hands, visit the film's official website linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic