Scrappy little “Night Fliers” blazes no new ground in the general coming-of-age narrative realm. But Sara St. Martin Lynne’s debut feature knows its amiable way around pubescent emotions, compensating for some wobbly craftsmanship. While the protags are a mite young to be making any decisions about sexual orientation, the heroine’s tomboy persona and outcast status make pic a natural for fest and tube programmers looking for gay-friendly material.
Perpetually baseball-capped 12-year-old Jesse (Sasha Harrison) is the new kid in a small Northern California town, along with girlier younger sis Claire (Hedda Carney). Mom took off long ago; Dad moved them here ostensibly for employment reasons, though a hidden agenda is revealed when he announces they’ll “blend” families with a local divorcee. Encouraged in her fascination with bugs by a thoughtful science teacher, Jesse is picked on by the class’ resident queen brat. She does find some equally misfit friends, notably neighbor Howie (Reese Romagnoli), whose home life is no picnic, either. Writer-helmer is still green at shaping scenes, developing conflicts and handling inexperienced thesps, but modest pic’s sure sense of how small events loom large in young lives proves winning.