Remember Little Hearts, those sugar-glazed, heart-shaped biscuits that used to make our day and melt our hearts? Just one bite of it was enough to turn the frown on our faces upside down, right? With their romantic comedy-drama Little Heartsdirectors Anto Jose Pereira and Aby Treesa Paul also aim to achieve something similarly modest: to keep the smiles on viewers’ faces unfazed.

Set in the small, pristine village of Pushpakandam in Idukki district, the movie revolves around three romantic relationships and the conflicts that arise within and due to them. In the case of childhood friends Sibi (Shane Nigam) and Shosha (Mahima Nambiar), the two have kept their relationship a secret from their respective families, fearing how they would react. Meanwhile, Sibi’s father Baby (Baburaj), a widower, is romantically involved with Cicily (Ramya Suvi), whose husband abandoned her and their teenage daughter years ago. However, due to Cicily’s daughter’s opposition, they must stay apart, hoping for better times. (Spoilers ahead) While their conflicts are ongoing, Sosha’s brother Sharon (Shine Tom Chacko) comes out to Sibi that he’s gay and seeks the latter’s help to introduce his relationship with a foreign man to his parents. The remainder of the movie follows them as their lives and relationships cross paths.

Although Anto and Aby’s story is endearing and has the potential to be a cute little movie about a few star-crossed relationships and their tumultuous journeys, which eventually lead to a happy ending, Rajesh Pinnadan’s script is too undercooked and gives off the feeling that it could come crumbling down at the slightest tremor.

Right from the beginning, Little Hearts Attempts to present itself as a simple, rooted film, but these efforts fall flat soon due to the overuse of clichés. From the portrayal of Sibi as the community’s reliable go-to person for all tasks and Baby as the BFF-like father to scenes such as a wild boar being chased with a country-made gun, the father-son duo sharing a drink every night, and The dad’s overt and naive use of social media platforms, the movie is filled with clichés that do not seem organically placed in the narrative.

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Although Little Hearts starts off charmingly with the sweet moments between Baby and Cicily, such instances become a rarity as the film progresses, particularly for the other couples. Instead, the movie begins focusing overtly on conflicts, with characters merely reacting to them. The script also suffers from overly convenient plot developments and the poorly developed characters make it hard for the audience to sympathize with them. Even Sibi, who appears in almost every scene, is inconsistently portrayed, with his responses varying due to weak characterization.

Festive offer

Among the three relationships, the homosexual affair between Sharon and his partner turns out to be the most underdeveloped. Although the movie attempts to handle the subject with sensitivity, it appears that the makers were too scared to explore it further, probably fearing that they would mess it up, eventually receiving backlash. Hence, the affair is only superficially explored and is largely relegated to the reactions of others. Even Sharon’s character is presented as a mute spectator to all the things happening in his life. Besides drinking, smoking and appearing perpetually tense, Sharon’s character isn’t provided anything substantial, while his partner is presented as the stereotypical white guy amazed by the Kerala landscape. Nevertheless, it is indeed endearing to see more and more films embracing homosexuality, especially the ones set in very ordinary localities. It is also remarkable that such movies manage to hit the screens and this indeed gives hope that the subject matter’s normalization is progressing steadily, although slowly.

Even the movie’s attempts to evoke laughter fall flat mostly, except for a few instances, particularly when Shane and Baburaj share the screen. Their bond, though reminiscent of many films where actors like Lalu Alex or Renji Panicker played fathers, is heartwarming. Nevertheless, the lack of freshness in these moments, as well as others, prevents Little Hearts from captivating the viewers. The contrived nature of Sibi and Shosha’s relationship, despite being given a romantic song, feels forced and added merely for the sake of having a “normal” relationship. This too detracts from the overall experience. Had the movie completely focused on the Baby-Cicily and Sharon-his partner tracks, Little Hearts might have felt more genuine, which it ultimately fails to be.

On the performance front, only Baburaj and Ramya Suvi manage to leave a lasting impact and their on-screen chemistry is delightful. While Shane Nigam deserves praise for stepping out of his comfort zone, playing a role not based in Kochi, his performance falls short too often, with his handling of the dialect remaining dismal, eventually affecting his dialogue delivery. Although Shane and Mahima impressed audiences with their exceptional chemistry RDX, here they seem to be on separate paths, failing to blend at any point, leading to frustration with their romantic track. Mahima’s performance also lacks impact, while Shine Tom Chacko manages to do some justice to his character, despite its poor development. Jaffer Idukki, on the other hand, impresses as always in a character tailor-made for him.

While Kailas’ music is soothing, it fails to uplift the sinking Little Hearts in any meaningful way. Arun Jose’s art direction, however, is impressive as he has managed to create a believable environment that aligns with the narrative’s needs. While Luke Jose’s cinematography and Noufal Abdullah’s editing are competent in many instances, they never push the movie beyond a certain level of impact.

Little Hearts movie cast: Shane Nigam, Mahima Nambiar, Shine Tom Chacko, Baburaj, Ramya Suvi
Little Hearts movie director: Anto Jose Pereira and Aby Treesa Paul
Little Hearts movie rating: 1.5 stars