“The Little Things” movie explained (meaning of the plot and ending)

Meaning of movie "The Little Things" (plot and ending explained) Films

The beginning of 2021 marked the release of writer-director John Lee Hancock’s new film “The Little Things,” the idea of which, at first glance, is to show the usual detective story of finding a murderer. It has everything you need for a standard detective: two cops, mysterious murderers, and a cunning maniac. Only the finale of the picture is striking with its unconventional ending. 

The detailed analysis of the film’s plot will help you understand the meaning of the movie “The Little Things.”

What is “The Little Things” about 

The film begins with a scene of a car chase with a girl driving through the night city at the wheel. From the first minutes, the viewer is gripped by the tension that does not recede until the end of the story. Without getting to know the key characters of the film “The Little Things,” the meaning of the picture is difficult to understand.

Main characters:

  • Jim Baxter is a young policeman investigating serial murders, married, and the father of two girls.
  • Joe Deacon “Deke” – a former legendary detective who accidentally shot a girl while pursuing a murderer. This caused a heart attack and suspension. After divorcing his wife, he lives in a small town, working as a sheriff’s deputy.
  • Albert Sparma is a young man who is fond of detectives and changes jobs frequently.

The time of action is the 1990s, and the city of Los Angeles is rocked by a series of murders of girls.


Joe Deacon arrives at the local police station on business, where he meets young detective Jim Baxter, who is investigating the ongoing murders. Jim hears about Deacon and asks him to join the inquiry.

After the first shots, one gets the impression that the plot and meaning of the movie “The Little Things” are quite simple. As the denouement approaches, the viewer’s opinion changes dramatically.

Albert Sparma falls under the officers’ suspicion. Their confidence in Sparma’s guilt did not change even after the suspect’s alibi became known.

Another girl goes missing. The detectives hope to save her by catching the maniac before the murder. Joe and Jim go to Sparma’s house for questioning and searching, and Sparma provokes the cops by claiming to know the location of the missing girl.

Arriving with Albert at the girl’s supposed burial site, Jimmy starts digging. Sparma, mocking the policeman, points out a new location. Enraged, Jimmy, realizing that Sparma is deliberately deceiving him, stabs Albert to death with a shovel.

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Dick, who arrives later, helps Jimmy bury the murdered man and tells Baxter to cover up what has happened, to take a vacation, and go away for a while. Joe returns to Sparma’s house to destroy his belongings. At the end of the film, Baxter receives an envelope from Joe with a red hairpin similar to the one that belonged to the last girl.

Meaning of the movie “The Little Things”

The authors chose such an ambiguous idiom as a title for a reason. On the one hand, the meaning of the expression “The Little Things” means that every little detail counts. And small elements are really involved in the movie. On the other hand, the phrase suggests that even when everything is provided for and taken into account, any little thing can change everything. Throughout the picture, the authors periodically bring the viewer back to the story that happened to Joe Deacon. Despite the fact that many years have passed, he lives with a feeling of guilt. This emotion and unrelenting heartache drive Dick, who agrees to investigate the murders.

Jim Baxter, for Dick, is the personification of himself as a young man who has not had time to make mistakes yet. By the middle of the movie “The Little Things,” the idea of the film changes dramatically. It is no longer an ordinary detective story but a psychological thriller.

The film shows the unbreakable bond between the two policemen. Baxter, like Joe, became an unintentional killer, and the young cop could not escape the same situation as the old one.

The authors showed the cyclical nature of life and crime; everything repeats itself one day. But Joe decides to spare his young friend the heartache. Deacon becomes a heavenly guardian angel for John, helping to cover up the murder he committed.

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The author reserves the characters the right to redemption, and each of them must sort himself out. Thus, in “The Little Things,” the point of the film is to fight the inner devil.

“The Little Things” ending explained

From the very beginning of the film, the audience tries, together with the characters, to understand who the real killer is. Quite unexpectedly, the ending does not answer the question, forcing one to wonder what the true meaning of the movie “The Little Things” is.

Sparma’s murder brings confusion to Jimmy’s soul. He tries to justify himself by stopping a brutal killer. Even so, Baxter can’t get rid of his doubts. What if this unpleasant fellow is not the natural killer and a terrible mistake has been made?

The girl’s hairpin, allegedly found by Dick in Sparma’s apartment, soothes Jim’s conscience. But the viewer sees that this barrette is actually the one Joe bought. Now the viewer, unlike Baxter, is not convinced of Sparma’s guilt. A lot of questions arise – who is the true killer, and why did the authors leave the ending open? What is the point of such an ending to “The Little Things”?

The authors invite the audience to draw their own conclusions. Thanks to the open finale, the audience is forced to reconsider their attitude toward the story they have watched. A seemingly ordinary detective story suddenly turns into a personal drama. By the end of the movie, one comes to understand how easy it is to make a mistake and become a murderer yourself. This explanation of the ending reveals the true meaning of the movie “The Little Things.”

Like all films with meaning, this particular one does not allow you to relax. And after the film is over, it makes you want to go back to the plot to remember all the details and answer the questions that have arisen.

Who is the actual killer?

The evidence against Sparma is shaky, and he has an alibi, but Joe and Jim continue to follow his trail until the worst happens: Sparma dies at their hands. And technically, we don’t have an answer. Was he the killer? No, of course, he wasn’t!

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Sparma isn’t even a wannabe; he’s a maniac, but a passive one. He stalks, but not the victims – he’s been following Joe Deacon for years. Because of his constant “communication” with the dead, Joe went insane 15 years ago. And when his wife and daughters leave, he loses his temper.

Joe finds three women (two young and one older) and has a tea party in the woods with their bodies. At just the right moment, he (allegedly on a call) arrives at the scene with his partner. And there are two bodies – another woman managed to escape. That is why Joe kills her during the pursuit. He convinces his partner that he thinks it is a maniac. He also persuades the pathologist, who is in love with him. So the three police officers become embroiled in the crime and help Joe escape.

Since then, he has never spoken to his family, partly because every detail is essential, and it would be easy for him to blurt it out when talking to his daughter.

Joe realizes he can’t stop and decides instead to lay low. He kills people in several locations across the United States but does so with extreme caution. However, when Baxter invites him to the crime scene, he realizes that the situation has changed; someone has been there. This means someone has been following his career, and we have to figure out why.

After learning about Sparma, he tries to pin it all on him and, in the process, weed out any evidence on himself if the fan has had time to collect it. But Baxter makes the plan even more convenient: he kills Sparma in a fit of rage. Joe, who knows what it’s like to be a murderer, tries to help Backstrom and plants evidence on Sparma, and the FBI takes over the case. Then Joe leaves town on his own.

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