Little Boy is essentially a movie-length parable expounding on Jesus’ promise that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

As young Pepper (I guess they couldn’t actually name him Mustard Seed) takes that verse to heart, Father Oliver poignantly explains that prayer isn’t magic, its power doesn’t come from us and that, in the end, it is God who is moved by humble prayer to move mountains for people — and that God is moved by compassion and good works. Toward that end, he gives Pepper a checklist of things to accomplish based on Church teaching regarding the Corporal Works of Mercy (i.e. feeding the hungry etc.) with one specific addition. He is to befriend Hashimoto, a local Japanese man who is being shunned and harassed by the local community.  Father Oliver isn’t asking Pepper to do something he hasn’t done himself. The true and respectful friendship between Oliver and Hashimoto is indeed one of the most engaging parts of the film — made all the more interesting because Hashimoto doesn’t share Oliver’s faith in God. Both men, and their points of view, are presented with respect and dignity.

While Little Boy takes a little while to grab you — frankly some of the early scenes regarding Pepper’s rich fantasy life drag on a bit — but, once it does, it may do so in a big way. I, for one, found myself really caring about these people. And, while faith is definitely the theme, it is presented through a story that doesn’t feel preachy. The performances, across the board — particularly by Wilkinson, Hiroyuki-Tagawa and young Salvati — are all first rate.

Honestly, while some mainstream critics who seem uncomfortable with broaching the subject of faith at all (unless it’s in a cynical way), will likely find things to complain about, Little Boy holds up as both a morality lesson (there’s actually nothing wrong with those) and great storytelling. This is not to say any criticism of Little Boy is unfair. Concerns about the presentation of an ironic twist involving the end of the war (the title provides a clue) are particularly understandable.

There are, it should be noted, a few somewhat intense and violent scenes depicting the war overseas and racism at home that parents should be aware of. Little Boy isn’t without flaws, but, overall, I found it to be a genuinely moving story about the true power of love and faith. I think it will be remembered as a classic.  Little Boy is Highly Recommended.

By John W. Kennedy, //

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