Hi, this is Barry, and welcome to my site. The Little Things is a 2021 crime thriller directed by John Lee Hancock. The film follows two cops on the hunt for a murderer who seems to have re-surfaced after a long hiatus. The cast has Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto in the leading roles. It’s a good film that focuses on a very different aspect of the police investigation & pursuit of the criminal and leaves one question in the audience’s mind. Here’s the plot and the ending of the movie The Little Things explained; spoilers ahead.
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The Little Things: Plot Summary
Before we jump to the ending of The Little Things, let’s quickly go through the plot.
Who is Joe “Deke” Deacon? What’s his story?
Deke is an earnest cop, and one of his cases in the past had him running in circles. It was the case of an abductor who kidnapped and tortured young women. Their naked dead bodies would be left for authorities to find. It was a sick fantasy, and none of the women were sexually abused. As part of the investigation, Deke and the team go to a location to find three dead girls. Deke happens to shoot at a person approaching in from the dark, thinking it is the perpetrator. It turns out to be one of the kidnapped girls that managed to get free. The team of cops and coroner decide to hide Deke’s mistake and state that the girl was found dead with a stab wound. The murderer was never caught. However, the incident leaves Deke shattered – a divorce and a heart attack.
Years later, the murderer seemingly returns and is committing crimes in much the same way. Deke, who is now doing a less intense job, happens to cross paths with the team handling the current case.
Who is Jim Baxter?
Jim is the lead investigator on the ongoing murder case and begins taking advice from Deke. Jim is very much like Deke and puts his work above everything else, sometimes even family.
Who is Albert Sparma?
Albert is not the murderer (disclosed only at the ending of The Little Things) but a mere crime junkie. He loves following crime stories. Albert has even claimed to be the murderer in one of the past unsolved cases. But it turned out Albert was only craving for the attention and was bluffing as his location at the time of the murder ruled him out as a suspect. The audience is given a strong feeling that Albert is the kidnapper but is far from the truth. He really likes getting under the skin of the cops as it gives him a high. He is only messing around, and it eventually costs him as we see in the ending of The Little Things.
Deke asks Jim to call Albert out for a drink. Albert leaves his home to head over to the bar, and Deke breaks into Albert’s house to look for evidence but finds nothing. Albert realizes what the cops are up to, so he calls 911 and reports an officer was shot down around his house. The cops swarm in, and Deke makes a run for it.
Jim murders Albert
When Albert finds Jim to be parked outside and keeping an eye on him, he goes down to talk to Jim while Deke is out buying coffee. Albert promises to take Jim to the place he has buried his latest victim. He’s lying. Jim assumes the victim to be Rhonda, who was out jogging when she got kidnapped. Earlier, when Jim meets her parents, they mention that she was wearing a red barrette on the night she disappeared.
Albert takes Jim to an open field and states that he buried the girl somewhere in there. Deke falls behind trying to tail them. This is where it gets a bit silly as Jim starts digging the field one spot at a time instead of getting Albert to do it. Albert really pushes Jim’s buttons, and after making Jim search multiple locations, he discloses that he’s never killed anyone. You can see quite clearly that Albert never meant any actual harm here. He never once goes for the gun despite how stupidly vulnerable Jim makes himself. But Albert goes too far when he taunts about how pathetic Jim is and can’t protect his two beautiful daughters. In a fit of anger, Jim swings the spade at Albert’s face and kills him.
Deke covers it up
Deke instructs Jim to dig a six feet deep hole and bury Albert. He then heads over to Albert’s place to break in, steal his safe, and finally, dispose of his car. This makes it look like Albert beat town.
When Deke returns to Jim’s location, we find that Jim continued digging all night to find a body, hoping he didn’t just murder an innocent man. But he finds nothing. The case is passed over to the FBI, and Jim tries to resume a normal life.
The Little Things: Ending Explained (The Red Barrette)
The ending of The Little Thing shows that the red barrette was not Rhonda’s but bought and sent over to Jim by Deke. Deke does this to let Jim believe that Albert was Rhonda’s murderer to give Jim closure. The reality is that though Albert was antagonizing, he was innocent. Jim knows that Deke broke into Albert’s house and stole his belongings. Realizing that Jim can never find peace, Deke buys and sends Jim a red barrette. This makes it appear that Deke recovered the clip from Albert’s house, making it look to Jim that Albert was indeed the kidnapper of that young jogger. It gives Jim closure, although it’s only a lie painted by Deke.
The Little Things: What was the film about then?
The film is set around a murder mystery where we neither see the criminal nor is he caught. All we know is that he’s one step ahead of the cops, and despite the endless efforts of Jim and Deke, they end up being tricked by Albert into thinking that he’s the culprit. Back in the day, Deke couldn’t nail the murderer, worse yet, he ends up killing an innocent girl by mistake. He is unable to move on, and this destroys him and his personal life.
Years later, Deke meets Jim, a man after his own heart. While initially, Deke hopes for closure and partners with Jim to find the kidnapper, it only pushes Jim down the same path Deke took. Knowing that he killed an innocent man, Jim would never find peace. His health and his family life would be wrecked. To stop this from happening, Deke sends Jim a lie in the form of a red barrette. A hairclip that will allow Jim to believe that he killed a man who deserved it. I think it would be short-lived as the murderer is still out there and would soon kill someone in the same pattern.
That’s all folks. How did you like The Little Things and it’s ending? Drop a comment below.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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