There's not a lot to recommend about "Kid-Thing," which isn't to say it shouldn't be seen. If that sounds contradictory, it's crystal clear compared with most of what goes on in this minimalist, rule-breaking exercise in head-scratching human behavior.
The titular "kid" is 10-year-old Annie (Sydney Aguirre), a surly, often cruel tomboy living in some Texas nowhere with her zonked-out, goat farmer dad, Marvin (Nathan Zellner, who also produced and shot the film); there's no mother in sight.
The unkempt, untethered child, who spends her days pilfering from the local market, making prank phone calls and hurling biscuit dough at passing cars, finds herself at a relative crossroads when she discovers an older woman, Esther (the late Susan Tyrell, heard but never seen), has fallen down an isolated well and desperately needs her help. Annie's reaction: Not so fast, lady.
How Annie does or doesn't assist Esther, and the girl's gnawing suspicion that she ought to do, well, something, fills most of this slowly paced film's brief running time. That is, when Annie isn't stealing from a blind music teacher or smashing a disabled child's birthday cake. It's that kind of movie — and that kind of heroine.
There's a surreal quality to this grubby fable, written and directed by David Zellner (Nathan's brother; he also plays Marvin's equally dense buddy, Caleb), that's exacerbated by its frankly startling ending. Ultimately, though, "Kid-Thing" proves as disturbing for what it is as for what it's not.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes
Playing: Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Los AngelesCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times