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Actober: 50 Major Child Performances 10/10

We finish our current batch of brilliant little brats, though superbly behaved on screen, with a mixed bag of talent. Ranging from the captive, the poverty-stricken, to the liberated, the endangered. And we love them all, even when they drop ice-cream on the floor. Big, big thanks to all who contributed here, it was a pleasure reading all the varying viewpoints of these great performances.

You Were Never Really Here

Ekaterina Samsonov as Nina Votto in You Were Never Really Here (2017)

Many consider Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Joe in You Were Never Really Here, a career defining performance, but Phoenix isn’t the only one that is noteworthy. Fifteen year old Ekaterina Samsonov shines as Nina, a young girl who has been trafficked and has had her innocence stolen from her. Even though, Nina doesn’t say much in the film, it’s a powerful performance, because less is more. We see the trauma that she has been subjected to, and in order to cope and escape she has a technique where she counts.

When Joe finds her, she is counting and later on we see her repeating this action. Many critics have picked up on the similarties between Samsonov’s performance and Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Samsonov plays Nina with depth and maturity, never the simple helpless victim, in the same fashion as Foster did. Although, there are similarties, there is no denying a sense of freshness and originality to Samsonov’s performance. It will be interesting to see what direction her career will go, but she has proven that she is a more than capable actress, with a promising talent. – – – – – Bianca Garner


Pierce Gagnon as Cid in Looper (2012)

A very fine example of truly original screenwriting, sparky and distinctive, Rian Johnson’s extraordinary Looper was a well-weaved crime sci-fi gem. Swirling us around his back and forth future tale, Looper carries with it an individuality and originality all of its own. The diverse character range on display includes that little Cid, blessed or cursed with extraordinary abilities, that figure him for a powerful man in the future. A comprising scenario indeed.

Pierce Gagnon appears fully immersed in this unique, unpredictable boy, and his somewhat immeasurable, volatile predicament. Protected by his no-nonsense guardian (a fiercely great Emily Blunt), Cid can’t fully comprehend his significance on the world. He still has little control. Gagnon’s emotional energy leaps from the screen, executing an enigmatic presence, one which you have to root for. That moment Cid cries, tear-lines form on his bloodied face, is instantly iconic. – – – – – Robin Write

Stand by Me

River Phoenix as Christopher Chambers / Chris in Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me, the Stephen King classic, following a bunch of preteens on an adventure to find a dead body, features a troupe of uniquely talented young actors as its ragtag team of heroes. But even amongst the high quality of talent in the film, River Phoenix manages to stand out as something special, an actor who you could watch as a child and know without a doubt that he would do incredible work in the future.

As Chris, he is charismatic, likeable, brave, intelligent: a natural leader. He’s also a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who most of his teachers have already written off as a good for nothing troublemaker. It’s this duality that makes his character so fascinating. Despite all of his positive qualities, he has an immense chip on his should and overcompensates by acting out, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding his behavior. Phoenix’s monologue, when he tearfully confides all of his fears and doubts to his best friend, is a towering achievement for any actor, let alone one who’s all of fifteen years old. – – – – – Audrey Fox

The Florida Project

Brooklynn Prince as Moonee in The Florida Project (2017)

In my humble opinion, the most revelatory youth performance of the last few years has been Brooklynn Prince’s supreme turn in the shamefully Oscar-ignored (no, I’m still not over it) The Florida Project. Prince is an absolute delight as Moonee, the cheeky, spirited young firecracker, completely oblivious to the impoverished state she finds herself in. There’s a daring and strong confidence to Moonee, mixed with the sweetness and naivety of a child, creating a character you cannot help but adore. Prince commands your attention, leaving you desperate to follow her journey, while foolishly hoping for a happy ending for this pseudo Disney princess.

In the film’s crushing climax, Prince will also completely break your heart, with genuinely gut-wrenching emotion, as the reality of her situation finally breaks through. In this one moment, her performance reaches another level, leaving you completely devastated but entirely captivated by her impeccable skills. Prince’s performance is a true force of nature, one well beyond her years. It’s an impressive debut that hints at more greatness to come. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Ms. Prince delivers next. – – – – – Doug Jamieson

The Spirit of the Beehive

Ana Torrent as Ana in The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Encapsulating a rich, masterful child’s point of view, Víctor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive is one of the very best to do so. Likewise, the film gazes curiously across landscapes of the undiscovered and the uncertain. A gorgeous, haunting tale, set in a small Spanish village following the country’s civil war. Our heroine is 6 year-old Ana, and herein lies a tender, inquisitive performance from Ana Torrent – a gem of a turn, and an apt close to this series of child cinematic wonders.

The compelling, raw canvas of childhood is enticing as it is eerie. Torrent is so naturalist, you can hardly take your eyes off her. And why would you, that beautiful little face resonates with all corners of the innocent, magic world. And not just in reality, through movies, as Ana follows her fascination with the Frankenstein film, and most notably, Boris Karloff’s Monster. Whether the reality or the fantastical, Ana’s own bewitching spirit, captured by Torrent’s wonderful presence, is a treasure to behold. – – – – – Bianca Garner


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