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Movie Review: Little One


Little One is the story of a mother, who takes a young girl under her wing. The story is simple, yet the circumstances are not. A six year old girl has been left for dead in the veld near a middle aged woman's home near an informal settlement. After saving her life, an inextricable and life-changing mother-daughter bond is formed between the rescuer and victim.

The story is truly heartbreaking and there's a tensile emotional undercurrent that drives this simple, yet beautiful film. The endless reserve of love this mother has for this abandoned child is inspiring and you can't help but be drawn into this contemporary take on the Good Samaritan. In our violent and ruthless society, we find someone who is able to rise above as justice runs its course.

While Little One deals with the rape and brutality of a child, it does so after the event. Roodt doesn't take away from the severity of the crime or its affects on the victim, instead he chooses to show the flip side by focusing on the guardian angel. Her selfless act and unconditional love for the child lead to transformation in both of their lives.

Darrell Roodt (Yesterday, Cry the Beloved Country) has created a quietly powerful crime drama that blends the authenticity of South Africa's socio-economic conditions with the sincerity of a heartfelt and redemptive love story. Little One can be likened to the cinema of Iran, engaging in life-affirming storytelling that cuts across age, race and culture. We can all identify with Little One and journey with ordinary people behaving in extraordinary ways.

Lindiwe Ndlovu is the life force of Little One. While probably best known for her comedic TV roles, she's seamless as Pauline, concerned with more than simply conveying an accurate dramatic performance. In much the same way as Precious, you can sense a beauty that goes beyond circumstances. She embodies a naive and spirited character in a performance that works for and against Little One, lifting the film's standards and showing up some of her supporting cast.

Mutodi Nesheshe delivers a solid supporting performance as Detective Morena. There may not be much in the way of exposition, but he represents the frustration of the justice system - determined to serve, yet unable to protect. It would have been fascinating to see the same story with a greater focus of the crime from his perspective.

Young Vuyelwa Msimang's performance as the title character may be sheltered by bandages and behind-the-head shots for most of the film, but she's there to represent every child. Her performance is instinctive and its a matter of letting the love in. Roodt uses her character to create deeply moving and symbolic scenarios involving her rehabilitation and reintegration.

One of the film's drawbacks is the character and casting of Pauline's husband, Jacob. While Luzuko Nqeto's performance is sincere, it's difficult to believe his character's day and night transition. He's stereotyped as an abusive and disconnected husband, who just wants his dinner on time. The actor has a comic edge, amplified by his features, that ultimately make him likable. This shines through, affecting the integrity of the drama and creating some unintentionally discordant moments.

Little One's simplicity may not hold everyone's attention. This is a quietly powerful drama that taps you on the shoulder to get your attention. Beautiful cinematography and symbolism make for a visceral experience that could be likened to walking through a gallery of South African photo-journalistic imagery with the subjects as your guide.

The bottom line: Powerful