In this illuminating Australian film, Susan (Nicola Bartlett) is married to James (James Hagan), an actor who has spent most of his time and energy on advancing his career. He never got very close to any of his three grown daughters. When she tells her husband that her cancer has returned and she doesn’t have much time left, he is devastated. With the honesty that only comes with many years of marriage, Susan says: “This is not about you.” They begin to think about Christmas when all three daughters and their grandchildren are scheduled to come home to celebrate the holiday together. We learn more about these sisters through flashbacks.
Anna (Melanie Munt) is an unfulfilled actress who is married to Mark (Scott Jackson), a self-absorbed filmmaker. He is so insensitive to his wife’s needs that he has not even considered giving her a role in his film. As a result of the rift between them, Anna is having an empty affair with a married man. Unhappiness speaks through her body language and everything she does. She once had high hopes for herself and is now feeling stuck in a rut.
Christine (Arielle Gray), the youngest daughter, is a med student still living at home. She has been a loyal helpmate to her mother and is dependable. But like her sister Anna, she is struggling with her sexuality. Only in her case, the challenge is to come out of the closet and declare herself a lesbian.
The oldest daughter is Nina (Nina Deasley) raising two children on her own since the death of her husband five years ago. He was an alcoholic and she has played out her role as a co-dependent, always taking care of someone else and completely neglecting herself. Then one day, Nina encounters Simon, the Best Man at her wedding, who she had liked in the past. She is hopeful that they can connect and perhaps start an intimate relationship.
Little Sparrows is written and directed by Yu-Hsin Camille Chen. There have been many films about sensitive and caring individuals who have helped relatives or friends achieve a finely finished death. But the screenplay in this astonishing film has Susan in the hospital on her death bed meeting each daughter and in the most loving way giving them advice that is based on her experiences as a woman, a wife, and a mother. Together these scenes reveal the soul of a wise person who is able to set aside her own pain and speak from the heart. Knowing that her three daughters are all lacking in self-esteem she builds them up with compliments and positive suggestions about their futures. These sessions with her daughters function as an ethical will in which Susan passes on spiritual counsel to them with tenderness and compassion.