Scandinavian films are a bit of a blind spot for me. And I can say the same thing about the cinema of the rest of the world. Watching Little Wing helps us. Movie like this one by Finnish director Selma Vilhunen exposes our local audience into that part of the world. It does that through a deliberately frank telling of the story of a child.
Varpu (Linnea Skog) deals with what I deal with on a daily basis. She alternates groups, trying to transcend both age and class. She’s an equestrienne. In that world, she deals with the coded (read: mean) behaviour of people her age who are more well off. And every days she returns home to her working class neighborhood in east Helsinki.
She also deals with an erratic mother, Siru (Paula Vesala) who is dating a man (Santtu Karvonen) she dislikes. Frustrated by her circumstances, she asks Siru questions about her dad . She gets some answers, like his name and what city he live in. With that knowledge, she then decides to take the car that a neighborhood boy jacked and find her father.
Yes, Vilhunen uses plot points to stall the film’s eventual arc. But at least Varpu gets to meet benevolent and interesting people along the way. Little Wing marvelously makes minor character as interesting as the lead. The film also lets characters reveal truths about themselves that don’t feel predictable in any sense of the word.
What we see here is a beautiful collaboration to depict a child knowing more about the people around her. Skog, working in film for the first time, imbues her role with gradual maturity. It’s also, by essence, a story about girls and women. And I always appreciate one that shows their flaws but better yet, their strengths.