I won't bury the lead. Nothing happens in "Little Girl." That's as simple as I can put it. So if you need a big plot, you will undoubtedly hate this movie. For me, however, I was absolutely captivated by this quiet slice-of-life drama that has no big purpose other than to show natural characters interacting in their environment. This Italian and Austrian co-production employs all the tenets that made the Italian neorealism movement so memorable. The cast is populated with non-professional actors, the setting is a world of economic hardship, and the interactions are truthful and seemingly improvisational. This truly is, for want of a better word, as real as real can be. But "Little Girl," despite what might have been an unsavory topic, has more charm and lightness than you have any reason to anticipate. Honestly, I loved it although I realize it may not be for everyone in an era where movies have gotten bigger and more in-your-face.
One day, as a woman (Patrizia Gerardi) searches for her dog in the park, she comes upon a little girl left alone. When she isn't able to find the child's mother, she takes her home to a local trailer park populated by struggling circus performers. A note from the mother is discovered saying that she will soon return, so Gerardi decides to watch the girl and not involve the police. Over the remainder of the film, we see Gerardi bond with the little girl (Asia Crippa) and how several other prominent members of the neighborhood form a new family unit of caregivers to the child. A grizzled Uncle (Walter Saabel) and a teenager (Tairo Caroli) round out the principle core, but everyone comes to accept the new addition to the community. Everyone is so incredibly natural, it's as if NOTHING is being staged and the bonds between all of the characters are genuine and quite sweet.
It helps that 2-year-old Asia Crippa is absolutely stunning and charming. Who wouldn't be enamored of this little girl? I sure was. But Gerardi, Saabel, and Caroli are all incredibly convincing. The movie has a gentle and loving tone and lacks any cynicism. There is also a bittersweet undercurrent as you know these people belong together, but they have no legal standing. So for the moment, they just enjoy one another with the realization that it could all end at any moment. Despite the deprivations in their lifestyles, these are people who have truly figured out the importance of togetherness and unconditional support. In the end, "Little Girl" might be too slight for some--but I think it speaks volumes. I really didn't expect it, but I fell hard for this movie and found it all but irresistible. It may not be for everyone, but I suspect those that love it will really love it! 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 3/12.