Stephen Maing’s “Little Hearts” is kind of like a reality based “Little Rascals” – no crazy donkeys, firecrackers or jalopies made out of wooden planks and old soup cans. Not that this cute short doesn’t have its fair share of childhood jackassery for we the audience to chuckle at, namely when an innocent kickball game suddenly turns full contact. Hell, I can watch kids pegging each other in the head with a big red ball for days.
“Little Hearts” focuses on Dong, a quiet Korean boy who is left alone at home nearly every day by his mother. Well, he has is grandma to take care of him, but she’s usually spacing out at the karaoke machine or snoozing in front of the boob tube, so the kid might as well be left alone. Bored of hanging around the house, playing an old school Frogger handheld machine, Dong decides to venture outside where he meets Julie and Jason who are brother and sister. Julie is quick to invite Dong to hang out with them – play a little kickball, destroy the sign of a boarded up supermarket, go play around in the pond – and Dong quietly accepts, despite that Jason has taken to giving him s**t as much as possible. You know, kid stuff.
But only after a couple days hanging out, Julie gets a crush on Dong and she parades in front of him with lipstick on, asking him whether he likes her legs or not. Dong remains quiet until one day, Julie decides to lean over and give him a kiss…and then Dong just gets quieter.
This film digs down and pulls up memories of audience members’ first kiss or even their “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” experience. A definitely interesting time, even if it may have been a bit disturbing for us and that’s what it’s like for Dong.
“Little Hearts” charms in not only the autobiographical story Stephen Maing is telling, but in the wonderful performances from the kids in the film. It’s difficult to direct children, so to get performances from them this strong, it’s just a sign of Maing’s power as a filmmaker. Congratulations to him, producer Heather Menicucci and the rest of the cast and crew for such a great piece.