Writer-director Dusty Bias takes a singular approach to telling an offbeat, oddly resonant tale of family, survival and redemption in "The Great & the Small." Though it's often too quirky for its own good and its bumpy narrative structure can be jarring, the film sneaks in quite a bit of depth and emotional punch.
Scott (Nick Fink), a young homeless man in his 20s on probation for petty crimes, is clearly still playing out the murky damage of his youth. Flat broke, Scott either squats in foreclosed houses or crashes with ex-girlfriend — and sometimes bedmate — Nessa (Louisa Krause), a single working mom to infant Mickey. Scott and Nessa are inextricably bound, however, by a baby they had several years back that, based on Scott's indifference, Nessa put up for adoption.
Three other story strands intersect: Scott's dodgy blue-collar boss, Richie (Ritchie Coster), enlists his help in a "can't miss" — and somewhat convoluted — robbery scheme; Scott befriends a lonely, grieving mother (Melanie Lynskey) who takes him in; and a wildly eccentric, if savvy, local detective (the great Ann Dowd) tails Scott and Richie. These idiosyncratic scenarios work better in parts than as a whole.
Still, "The Great & the Small," named after a children's book that factors in, proves a resonant showcase for Bias' sink-or-swim confidence, off-kilter humanism and decidedly independent spirit.
'The Great & the Small'
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; VOD Feb. 21