An evocative examination of the migrant experience, Little America, an anthology series produced for Apple TV+ is an ode to unending hope, resilience and determination in the face of baffling odds. Each episode is inspired by the true story of a migrant family negotiating their place in a culture distinct to their own. Co-produced by Kumail Nanjiani, Alan Yang, Lee Eisenberg, Emily V. Gordon, this gem of a show that released in January this year is slowly finding its way to the mainstream.
The idea of America as a country where potential and ambition can always be realised has been a common trope on television. The American dream has been looked at through various lenses, but what makes Little America’s perspective on this very ideal so unique, is that it shines with sincerity and affection, both for its characters and for its underlying philosophy. In every one of these eight episodes, migrant families belonging to different ethnicities come to terms with what they’ve chosen to leave behind and how they can rebuild a live worth living in America.
The emotional core of each episode lies in the fact that these characters choose to persevere despite emotional and social turmoil at every step. Whether its angst-y teenager Marisol in ‘The Jaguar’ who learns to dream of a better life for herself or Beatrice, a single mother from Uganda in ‘The Baker’ who decides to start her own business as she struggles to raise her child, each of these characters makes a conscious decision to rise above their circumstance. To these characters, America is their singular hope. The only place where they can fulfil their potential, where there is opportunity at every step as long as they choose to keep trying.
Little America is careful not to create elaborate plots contrived to make you feel a certain way. There are no apparent ‘bad guys’, no dramatic climaxes, there’s never an intentional attempt to make a statement. This is precisely why the show works so well, because it wants to offer a genuine glimpse into the everyday lives of migrants in America where something as small as being confident enough to wear a cowboy hat and boots to a classroom in college is a big victory. It’s these little events in their lives that define the characters of the show and the show itself.
Themes of family and hope seep through every episode of the series. It is as much about transformation as it is about holding on to the people that help you get through your best and worst days in life. Since the characters belong to a certain socio-economic strata of the society, class also becomes a major theme in each of these episodes. The American dream is not a fixed idea to these characters. For one it is building a dream house, while to the other it is a place of freedom, where you can unabashedly be yourself.
In the final episode, ‘The Son’ this very notion of America as a Utopian concept is beautifully portrayed through the eyes of a gay man from Syria who patiently waits to be granted asylum in the United States where he can finally stop being afraid. The majority of this episode takes place outside America but the ideal of America is what acts as a catalyst for the protagonist to finally take charge of his life.
America as a country is not without fault. The very dreams these characters chase have the potential to come crashing down because of a broken, corrupt system in a country they hold in such high regard. But ‘Little America’ chooses to tell a different kind of story; one where giving up can never be an option. Cynics might find it a little too optimistic, but in the world we live in today, all of us could do with a little extra optimism.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.