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Florida Film Festival Review: KID-THING

Sydney Aguirre as Annie, from KID-THING

The only reason they love you is because you’re a source of food.

– Annie

The Zellner brothers’ latest film, KID-THING, is set in depressed rural Texas and told through the naïve and lonely eyes of 10-year-old troublemaker Annie. Like most children her age, Annie enjoys riding around on her bike and pranking anyone she sets her sights on. A seemingly-parentless child with a despondent father, Annie spends her days swiping from the local convenience store, throwing dough at passing cars exiting the highway, picking fights with other children her age, and exploring the countryside. Annie does not think about morality or consequences of her actions; after all, she is only 10, and her father isn’t much of a role model himself.

KID-THING is filmed with a very specific feeling in mind; there is little to no soundtrack to the film, instead focusing on wide shots of countryside, goats and chickens in the yard, freeways and bales of hay. There are very few people shown, as well, and strong personalities (excluding Annie) are even rarer. The focus is completely on Annie and her depressing, lonely lifestyle reflected in the environment around her. Perhaps the most poignant scene of KID-THING is an observation of a fellow child’s birthday party. It is certainly the least happy birthday I have ever seen, and as one looks at the face of the birthday girl throughout the scene, one can see a quiet acceptance of her life and its series of unfortunate events.

As for Annie, all is well and good – or at least as well and good as can be – until the day she happens across the callings of a woman trapped in a hole in the ground, far from any travelled path. This woman, Esther (voiced by Susan Tyrell), pleads with Annie to help her, asking Annie to go tell an adult (an authority figure) about her predicament. Not trusting Esther, and actually somewhat fearing this voice from out of the earth, Annie runs away. However, it is not long until this combination of fear and responsibility has Annie return to Esther – not with an adult; but with food, a walkie-talkie, and stolen drink. Becoming Esther’s caretaker, Annie slowly becomes conscious to the larger world, and how her decisions impact those around her.

During another visit to Esther, Annie makes the conscious choice to buy those supplies which she will bring to Esther; but as irony would have it, after making a good ethical choice, her bike is stolen while she pays the store clerk. This scene, along with a couple other events that threaten to change Annie’s life forever, marks a turning point for the girl who is growing up too fast. Finally, as communication with Esther is lost, Annie returns to the hole for one final time.

7 / 10

TitleCountry / YearGenre
David ZellnerSydney Aguirre, Nathan Zellner, and Susan Tyrell80 Mins

"The Little Man" rating system from the San Francisco Chronicle

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