Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Sundance 2024 Review: Little Death – “Innovative visuals”

David Schwimmer appears in Little Death by Jack Begert, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

With an impressive list of music video directing credits on his resume, filmmaker Jack Begert makes his first foray into feature-length storytelling with Little Death.  Co-writing alongside Dani Goffstein, Begert tells a story of addiction, anxieties, dreams, and failures within the Los Angeles landscape.  An ambitious and audacious project, Little Death uses innovative visuals to tell its tale with variable effect, and its structure means we never get the full picture.

The film opens with Martin (David Schwimmer) in melancholy voice-over telling us about how we are trapped in this one life.  “Hope.  Now that’s the real tragedy,” he types on the screen, working on a script.  He’s been working for years as a writer on a sitcom, something that does not inspire him.  Instead, he is trying to get a feature film off the ground, even if his fiancée, Jess (Jena Malone) doesn’t think it’ll happen.  He’s been disappointed before.  He ignores her opinion.  After all he can barely stand her.  He wonders if the mole on her neck is cancer and if she will die.

Check out all of our Sundance coverage

With a plethora of prescribed anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and pain medication in his cabinet, Martin is numb.  All he really wants is someone to listen.  And fame.  Because who doesn’t really want that?  The studio execs end up liking his script, but tell him that it would be better if he could change the gender of the main character to a woman.  No one needs another white guy story, even if it is based on Martin’s childhood.  Martin (now seen to the audience as Gaby Hoffmann) resists until he sees a way to cast a mysterious woman (Angela Sarafyan) from his dreams as the lead.  Perhaps everything will be okay.  Until it’s not.  And everything changes.

It changes abruptly because this is where Little Death abandons Martin’s storyline completely for one of two teenagers who become tangled up with some drug dealers while trying to find their next opioid fix.  The second half of the film follows Karla (Talia Ryder of Never Rarely Sometimes Always) and AJ (Dominic Fike best know for Euphoria) as they try to work their way out of a bad situation.

There is little to connect the two halves of this movie except for one fast moment, which serves as a good reminder not to store bowling balls on top shelves, and a chihuahua who will eventually be re-named Avocado.  The lack of transition is jarring, as each section, while existing in the same universe, are decidedly distinct in tone.  The first half of the film contains a myriad of AI animation sequences, quick film clip montages (one of which amusingly uses red carpet footage of Schwimmer from his Friends days) and shock value moments that are disorienting, yet bold visuals.  This type of filmmaking is completely abandoned in the second half for a more traditional narrative as Karla and AJ make their way through the night in Los Angeles.

While the saying says two halves make a whole, in the case of Little Death that doesn’t seem to be true.  While the cast is great all around (a perpetually sweaty-looking Schwimmer and an enthusiastic Hoffmann make the unlikeable Martin particularly watchable) the film never really seems cohesive in a meaningful way.  There are some standout moments in each section of this film, and it’s a bold swing for a first-time director (that it was produced by Darren Aronofsky in retrospect seems less of a surprise) so Little Death therefore deserves respect in its creativity.  However, its structure never allows either story or its characters to be fully developed, instead feeling more like two unfinished projects.

Warning for those sensitive to scenes with animals:  in the film a dog is depicted as being killed in a blender.  It’s a fast and cartoonish like scene, and while unpleasant this only happens as a daydream and the dog is a-ok (and adorable) the rest of the film

Little Death premiered at the Sundance Film Festival January 19, 2024.  For more information head to

Previous PostNext Post


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.