Film review: Little Shadow by Toby Fell-Holden

A boy's sexual awakening coincides with his father's return from the army, which acts as a trigger for his challenge of paternal authority. Through this tale of reunion and rebellion, Little Shadow explores the complex and at times vulnerable bond between a father and his son as well as issues around masculinity. Initially, the boy attempts to emulate his dad, making sexist jokes and openly admitting his admiration for him; however, by the end of the film, he appears to despise him, showing contempt for his poor treatment of his mother and eventually walking away from him, a subdued but significant act of rebellion. 

The boy not only challenges his dad's authority, but also the kind of masculinity that comes with it: with his alpha-male, jock looks and confident demeanour, the father embodies a type of bold, aggressive masculinity that clashes with his son's awkwardness. At the beginning, the boy tries to act cool by playing pranks such as spitting at a girl on a train or trying to impress a group of older and (only apparently) more self-assured boys. However, after his first sexual experience with a girl during a game of spin the bottle and an ensuing fight with her “boyfriend”, he begins to distance himself from his father. This is especially evident in the scene where he refuses the dagger his dad has brought him: by giving him such a phallic object, it is as if the father was both acknowledging his son's coming of age and handing him a token of (his kind of) masculinity, as an encouragement to 'man up' and be like him.

Exposing the less charming side of traditional masculinity, Little Shadow puts it into question, and portraying less traditional kinds of masculinity as equally valid. Whilst its finale is slightly unsurprising, such an ending is also a hopeful note, portraying a generation more critical of fixed gender roles and the stereotypes related to them. 

Author: Chiara Puntil

Title: Little Shadow

Director: Toby Fell-Holden

Year: 2013

Run time: 16'53''

Country: UK

Contact details:


*Every day Cineuropa Shorts, in collaboration with Nisimazine and Lago Film Fest (18-26 July), offers you film reviews and interviews made in Lago by the brilliant Nisimazine’s team of young journalists.

27 July 2014, by Nisimazine