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Release Date: 03/13/24 [Paramount+]
Genre: Drama. Sport.

Studio: Paramount+. 

"Follows a 13-year-old girl who is dragged into the world of pigeon racing as she deals with her parents' divorce and the impending loss of her home." 


All birds have a reputation for being majestic, but it’s hard to keep that idea in mind when a pigeon crosses your path. Whether you’ve ever lived in a city or a suburb, chances are you’ve seen - or been caught up in - the path of one of nature’s nuisances. Not only do pigeons poop everywhere. They get in your way. Sometimes, they’ll literally get in your face. As crass and chaotic as this particular avian species might be, on top of carrying the burden of being everyone’s least favorite bird, it also carries a secret. This particular secret happens to be the heart of the new film, Little Wing.


Inspired by a 2006 article written in The New Yorker by Susan Orlean, Little Wing follows a 13-year-old girl who gets caught up in the world of pigeon racing amidst her parents’ divorce.  Dean Israelite, who previously helmed the science fiction film Project Almanac and the 2017 Power Rangers reboot, serves as the director here. While there isn’t as much action here as his previous projects, the exhilaration still remains.


When we first meet our main character, Kaitlyn, she sees the world in black and white. As previously mentioned, we find out early on that her parents are getting divorced. As a result, she lacks interest in everything. This depression only intensifies when she’s gifted two pigeons for her birthday, rather than the only thing she vocalizes might actually make her feel better: a phone. To add insult to emotional injury, soon after Kaitlyn discovers that her mom is selling the family’s home as a result of the divorce. Being that this is the only home Kaitlyn is ever lived in, she becomes particularly distraught. That is, until her best friend, Adam, becomes obsessed with her pigeons and finds out that there’s a whole local community of pigeon racers. When he tells her that there’s one specific local racer, named Jaan Vari, who owns a pigeon worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Kaitlyn decides that she wants to steal it to save her house from being sold. 


Now, contrary to what our characters establish, the heist is only a footnote in the full story. The resulting entanglement with the pigeon racer she tries to steal from is where the real story begins. It’s also how Kaitlyn’s zest for life returns. 


At first glance, Kaitlyn thinks she has nothing in common with the birds. But as the film goes on, both she and the audience learn that they are not so different after all. Pigeons have a profound appreciation of their homes. It’s this particular trait that makes pigeon racing possible at all. Contrary to what the name might imply, the sport does not follow pigeons as they race on some sort of track. Instead, they are released from a particular location and “the race” is the time it takes to see how quickly they go back to their homes. Being in a position where she doesn’t want to lose the only home she’s ever known, Kaitlyn grows to admire the untapped intelligence pigeons carry. She realizes that similar to racing pigeons, no matter how far she ever goes or is ever forced to move, she doesn’t have to forget her one true home. 


Brooklynn Prince portrays Kaitlyn with a wholesome humanity that is not only hard to come by in young actors, but that is also necessary to make this story work. The film tackles several serious subjects such as depression and suicide. While any actor could easily say those words or talk about what they mean, with Prince you can feel how much they weigh down her character. And you feel how much the pigeons literally lift her up from bad thoughts.


Another compliment to Prince is how well she is able to hold her own against Brian Cox. He plays Jaan Vari. Like almost every other role in Cox’s filmography, he is so simultaneously immersed and eccentric, you’ll walk away from this wondering if he actually has an aviary in real life where he nests pigeons. 


As great as the film or its performances are, it’s not perfect. There’s so much the film builds up. And many of our main characters' issues get resolved. For example, there is that one last big pigeon race you’d expect. Kaitlyn does find a way to cope with her parents’ divorce. There is a climax, but the film just never feels like it fully takes off. In other words, it does such a good job at setting up so many great ideas, but by the time the credits roll each one doesn’t feel fully fleshed out.

Now, while Little Wing may not always soar above the clouds, that doesn’t really matter because neither do pigeons. It’s still a solid coming-of-age story about how to spread your wings. That’s arguably the most important life lesson there is.

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