Review: The Slow Burn of The Little Things

Aubrianna Martinez, Reporter

The Little Things (2021), directed by John Lee Hancock premiered on HBO Max on Jan. 29 and will continue to be available to subscribers until the end of February. 

The film itself has a local connection, but at the same time a fictional connection. The main character of the film Joe Deacon (played by Denzel Washington) is a Deputy Sheriff from Kern County who travels to Los Angeles to tie up the loose end of a case. Only to become involved in an entirely different one that Washington’s character is all too familiar with. Working side by side with Sargent Jim Baxter (played by Rami Malek), the two of them form a cohesive team and amicable relationship for viewers to enjoy.

The film is shot exquisitely, especially since it was one of the many films that were slated to debut in theaters before WarnerMedia changed the agenda so that it is released on HBO Max. It’s streaming for a limited time for audiences to watch at home rather than the theater as a part of the platform’s same-day premieres plan, according to the service’s website. 

Hancock’s film may seem slow, but it is never boring, as it ratchets up the tension in an almost uncomfortable manner for the viewer. Audiences watch as the main characters attempt to catch an elusive and intelligent serial killer who may or may not be exactly who the police suspect. The suspect in question is played by Jared Leto in an eerie and stellar performance.

Truly all of the main cast give excellent performances, and the directing demonstrates a real competency with both the medium and how to best tell a winding story without ever truly losing the audience. 

The only unfortunate aspect of the film is its title. While there was an attempt to make it fit the theme of the story and weave into the narrative, a reason to call the film the title it was given, rationale falls just short of explaining why this title is meant to elevate the film’s story. Certainly, a character says the words to another character and repeats them as the film reaches its conclusion, but how does it connect with the story being told? It doesn’t, not really.  

Nevertheless, a pseudo-functioning title is not the worst sin a film can carry. The Little Things succeeds in creating an ambiguous Schrödinger’s ending; by both leaving the audience with a groan of exasperation as they watch the final scene, as well as awe at the mystery reaching its conclusion. The last loose end of the film is neatly tied seconds before the credits roll.