June 23, 2014

Tiny: A Story About Living Small

Christopher Smith & Merete Mueller, 2013
Smith directs and stars in this documentary that examines a growing number of Americans looking to live in "smaller" living quarters. Described in the film as the "tiny house" movement, some people are deciding to live well within their own means by building smaller homes, much smaller actually - typically less than 100 square feet. These homes consist of the pure basics: a small sleeping area, kitchenette, minimal storage, and and a bathroom. Because of the issues with local building codes, most of these homes are built on trailers with wheels on them which allows them to sneak into the loophole of being a "temporary structure". The doc is also not without some comedic qualities. It's kind of comical to see two grown adults in a tiny doll-house like structure. With some of the interviewing done in the Portland area, you get a sense that at any given moment Fred Armison is going to walk through the door in a wig.

The doc centers on Christopher and his desire to build a tiny home for himself. Christopher is a hippie-ish tattooed long-haired guy with some ink on his arm. He has just turned 30, and very much wants his own version of the American Dream. He recognizes the high cost of purchasing an expensive home, with the obligatory thirty year mortgage, maintenance costs, etc. With the help of his more-reluctant but loyal girlfriend Merete, he decides to build his own tiny home. With limited costs and limited time he realizes that even though they are much smaller homes and less costly - it's more challenging of a project than he originally anticipates. He interviews fellow tiny home owners, all of which are happy with their decision to live more simply which inspires him to tread through. A year drags on. Christopher's wallet empties. Merete becomes unsure of whether or not she wants to be Christopher's cohabitant in such a small dwelling. She has her own dreams of moving to the Big Apple which is basically the complete opposite of Christopher's dream of living in rural Colorado. As you see Christopher labor through assembling the wood framing piece by piece, you continue to be served with images of proud tiny home owners happily sitting in tight dwellings.

The film has two appealing elements. One, it's great that a young filmmaker like Christopher can make an interesting documentary on a small budget. This type of thing should always be encouraged. Two, there should be more people like Christopher that are around 30 years old and don't want to immediately jump into a lifetime of debt. It's an interesting film that may be small but has a bigger message. There is an insatiable desire that a lot of Americans have. A constant hunger for more of something, something bigger. An appetite that is never fully satisfied. Instead of looking at what they have, people tend to focus on what they think they need. This mindset is of course reinforced by the widespread marketing that encourages it. Part of the Western Capitalist culture, really. But the film proposes the idea of possibly looking to live in something more minimal and more essential, on a smaller scale. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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