Encouragement is all around Mya (A’Keyah Dasia Williams) when she leaves for work in the morning in “Me Little Me,” with notes that read “Reframe” and “Remain in the Resilience Zone” and even the rocks outside painted with confidence-boosting platitudes. It does not look like she needs the help, striding into work at a car rental company in Long Beach where she’s on the precipice of a promotion after two-and-a-half years of landing steady new accounts for her regional boss Davis (Clark Moore) and has ingratiated herself with co-workers by taking the unglamorous task of washing up the cars that have been returned in the morning when it means they’ll cover for her when she needs time away from the office. But what seems like a kindness is actually a necessity in Elizabeth Ayiku’s captivating character study when Mya has to lead something of a double life, reluctant to reveal to anyone that she has a crippling eating disorder that she’s been actively trying to remedy with the help of a support group.
As discomfiting as its subject matter might be, Ayiku doesn’t wallow in it, only providing the glimpses that her lead character is willing to show you, much like the people in Mya’s life who wish they could be closer to her, yet are kept at a distance. Shrewdly, you meet her co-workers, support group and her flesh-and-blood family in that order with the sense of connection fraying along the way as Mya’s level of comfort erodes around people she feels she has to justify herself more towards. There are other reasons she tries to keep communication to a minimum with her sister (ReSheda D. Terry), who she hasn’t seen in at least three years until a baby shower brings them together, but the inhibitions that govern Mya due to her inability to eat are all-consuming, expressed so effectively in Williams’ nuanced performance that hides a hint of doubt behind her considerable stoicism and Ayiku’s sensitive framing that lurid details are never needed for drama.
Being a debut feature on a modest budget, it’s only natural “Me Little Me” is slightly rough around the edges, but what also comes organically to Ayiku is the ability to slip in and out of Mya’s life so effortlessly it feels like the work of a seasoned pro, with the writer/director moving between spaces that it becomes clear are difficult for Mya to navigate in spite of the brave face she’s putting on and showing how one touches another. When at work Mya sets up a meeting with a promising new client and her boss insists on coming along to close the deal, you can feel the confidence draining out of her as she feels can’t be counted on to reel the client in despite setting up the meeting, which is made all the worse when lunch plans are made without her input. These minor slights pile up into a perspective rarely articulated on screen, let alone so precisely, and while “Me Little Me” may convey feeling small in the world, the emotions it elicits are considerably bigger.
“Me Little Me” will screen at SXSW on March 17th at the Violet Crown Cinema 1 at 7 pm and Violet Crown Cinema 3 at 7:30 pm.