Small Teen Big World Review: Little Star
SMALL TEEN BIG WORLD: Tuesday 27th July, BBC3, 9pm ALERT ME
Jasmine Burkitt, who suffers from a rare form of dwarfism, is turning 16, planning a trip to America and hoping to meet her father for the first time. Only two of those things actually happen, but as the great poet Meatloaf once sang, “two out of three ain’t bad”.
Jasmine, known as Jazz to her friends (or rather, friend) is painted as an average teenager despite her disability. But she’s not. At the risk of sounding soppy, she’s extraordinary. Since the age of 13 she’s been a registered carer for her mother, Bev, who suffers from the same condition, as well as having respiratory problems. Jasmine is just over three feet tall. Her iPhone looks like an iPad in her petit hands and she relies on a stool to reach kitchen worktops.
Jasmine and her mother are planning a trip to New York: “There’s going to be a big ‘Little People of America’ convention,” says Jasmine – a contradiction in terms surely? Jasmine and Bev’s trip to the Big Apple inevitably results in shots of Times Square accompanied by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind, which seems to have become compulsory.
The relationship between Jasmine and Bev is the pivot upon which the documentary rests. Often they are close, providing touching moments of mother/daughter intimacy. Other times, their relationship seems confined to that of patient and nurse, or master and servant.
Bev wallows on her bed, like a pocket-sized Jabba the Hut, ordering her daughter around. She looks like a cross between Theresa May and Ann Widdecombe. Bev is never far away from a glass of wine, even wandering around her new home in Hemel Hempstead with a half bottle in her hand. She’s sips on alcopops as Jasmine and best friend Naomi practice constructing a tent ahead of V Festival. This vice is at least, presumably, cheap – I can’t imagine it would take more than a thimble full of liquor to make her tipsy.
The trip to V Festival leads to some rather unsavoury comments which enrage Bev. “How far away are you?” shouts one reveller. At least it’s more creative than “while you’re down there, give me a blowjob,” a comment Bev has heard plenty of times.
“I’m the mum and she’s the daughter,” says Jasmine. As much as Small Teen Big World is about Jasmine’s transition into adulthood, it’s also about Bev’s empty nest syndrome. She struggles with the idea of losing Jasmine, or of her finding love (or her father). Bev is totally dependent on Jasmine, and one wonders whether it is Jasmine’s height or her mother that’s her greatest disability.