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(The 2024 Sundance Film Festival ran January 18-28. Check out Melanie Addington’s movie review of Every Little Thing. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

A quiet film that at first glance appears only to be about hummingbirds but turns into a beautiful reminder of the duality of Mother Nature, Every Little Thing, is a beautiful documentary that premiered at Sundance this week. Set in Los Angeles with Terry Masear and her hummingbird sanctuary, the film follows her as she helps rescue hummingbirds, advises a hotline for those asking for help, and nurtures the injured back to freedom. 

Directed by Sally Aitken (Playing with Sharks), we follow Terry as she introduces us to hummingbirds Cactus, Jimmy, Wasabi, Alexa, and Mikhail. As the film continues we see their personalities emerge thanks to the deft cinematography of Nathan Barlow, Dan Freene, and Ann Prum. While you quickly gain your favorite to cheer on (mine is Cactus), you also learn so much about the intricacies that go into these tiny creatures that have impossible flying patterns and predator instincts despite their small size.

“Just like humans, damaged birds carry a kind of caution about everything, they know life is hard,” Terry explains as several of the birds transition to their emergency to a next step cage outside as they grow stronger. Since hummingbirds will kill each other if they sense weakness or a challenge, Terry doesn’t let them loose until she is sure they are ready to fight for existence once again. 

As she opens up about her trauma in life, we begin to understand why she is so empathetic to these small creatures who miraculously survive. Despite a difficult childhood, Terry found great love and lost him to cognitive decline. Her sense of self is so profoundly rooted in care though that she admits she is not lonely as she has led a great life and continues to give her heart and care to the birds. 

Through their struggles, successes, and even loss, the hummingbirds remind us of our microcosm of life, and how to be connected to others can be painful but without it,  we miss the good stuff.

“When you show compassion and love that you don’t have to, it’s an act of greatness,” Terry reminds us. 

Cactus feels like a goner as she falls behind in healing. But due to Terry’s patience and willingness to try a new approach, we see her heal and become who she should be. With Alexa and Mikhail, their great love story in captivity continues as they heal and leave together. Jimmy moves on as is supposed to happen despite being a big fan of Terry from the start. His personality as a teenager becomes much like a human teenager and his charming personality turns into recklessness. Aitken weaves these stories together in a beautiful captivating way that makes the sum greater than its parts. 

– Melanie Addington (@MelAddington)

2024 Sundance Film Festival; Sally Aitken; Every Little Thing

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Melanie Addington is the Executive Director of Tallgrass Film Association as of 2021. She has worked in the film festival world since 2006, first as a volunteer, and then eventually becoming the Oxford Film Festival Executive Director in August 2015. She used to be a reporter for the Oxford Eagle (a community newspaper) and then Pizza Magazine Quarterly (a global trade magazine). She still loves pizza. And she still writes for Hammer to Nail and Film Festival Today about her other great love: movies. She is from Southern California originally but lived in the South for 20 years. She now resides in Wichita, KS, and has one son.

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