This is a fairly straightforward but interesting documentary about a group of like-minded residents of Portland, Oregon, who have decided for various reasons – financial, personal, political, and so on – to build and live in small houses. It follows a few different people in particular who have either recently constructed or who are in the process of constructing their own tiny abodes, and includes lots of interview footage in which they discuss the driving forces behind their respective decisions to shun ‘traditional’ housing and everything that goes with it. So, for example, there’s one young couple with college debts who openly discuss the fact that they’ve been attending relationship counselling sessions, and thus their shared work as they build the new home appears to have become a way to reinforce their togetherness. Another young guy seems to be using the house-building process partly as a means to work out issues that he had/has with his late father. There are other similarly-emotional stories shared.
As an alternative lifestyle choice it’s quite an inspiring one in many ways, and I can certainly understand why people choose to do it, with several attractive reasons put forward by those interviewed here: there’s clearly a good sense of community between the tiny house builders, for starters, and we see lots of help and advice being offered, though that does seem to be something you could apply to Portland more generally. So the documentary does offer some food for thought but it’s a relatively short and slight film at just 68 minutes, and for me a little more material examining the logistics of actually living in such a house would have been welcome. The brevity of the piece means that little time is spent with Dee Williams, the pioneer behind the movement, which is a shame; also, we never see inside the finished houses owned by the people we’ve watched working throughout a cold, north-western winter. Perhaps I’ve just been conditioned to expect this after years of watching TV shows like Grand Designs, but I was hoping to see what they looked like when completed. I’m such a traditional-house-dwelling conformist!
Directed by: Jeremy Beasley.
Written by: Jeremy Beasley.
Cinematography: Jeremy Beasley.
Editing: Florence Mathilde Holmes.
Running Time: 68 minutes.