‘Little Wing’ Ending Explained: What Was Jaan Vari’s Advice To Kaitlyn?


Director Dean Israelite explores the idea of home and belonging in the heartfelt coming-of-age drama Little Wing. Thirteen-year-old Kaitlyn McKay’s world turned upside down when her parents announced their divorce. It was not an unforeseen decision, but the aftermath of such a significant change left her devastated. A feminist at heart who was desperately searching for inspiration, Kaitlyn thought it was ridiculously pretentious when her peers claimed to be inspired by famous dead white men. From the very beginning, we get a sense that Kaitlyn was unafraid of speaking her mind. She did not care about playing it safe or getting a good score, and she was proud of admitting to the fact that she looked up to Britney Spears and Kathleen Hanna. 

Spoiler Alert

What did Kaitlyn do with the Granger?

The divorce was inevitable, and when her parents announced it, Kaitlyn decided to take advantage of the emotional scenario and beg them for an iPhone. It was a small compensation that she hoped to be rewarded with for the damage the divorce would cause. But, of course, her demand was not entertained, and she ended up with two pigeons in a cage. 

Kaitlyn’s mother, Maddie, was a detective in the police department, and one evening, she invited her boss, Ben Lasher, and his wife, Libby Lasher, for dinner. Kaitlyn was hiding her excitement when Ben got up to bring her a gift. She prayed with all her heart for a phone but was handed a pair of racing pigeons. Ben belonged to the small community of pigeon enthusiasts, and he hoped for Kaitlyn to find company in the little creatures. Needless to say, Kaitlyn was disappointed.

When Kaitlyn found out that Maddie was planning on selling their house because she did not have the money to pay the mortgage, she was heartbroken. Little Wing repeatedly compares Kaitlyn with pigeons and their desire to always return home. Kaitlyn refused to be plucked out of her home, and to protect her space of comfort, she was ready to risk it all. Kaitlyn’s best friend, Adam, was psyched when he saw the pigeons. He read up on them all night and shared every little interesting detail he found online. While Kaitlyn chose to ignore it all, the mention of a $120 grand caught her attention. Apparently, there was a white-helmet racing pigeon, Granger, owned by pigeon enthusiast Jaan Vari, worth over Kaitlyn’s house. She immediately made up her mind to steal the pigeon, sell it to the highest bidder, and use the money to keep their house. Adam was not as adventurous as Kaitlyn, but she promised him a French kiss, and it was enough to fuel his interest. After locating Jaan Vari’s house, the teen pigeon thieves left on their bikes and managed to enter Vari’s pigeon loft. Out of tens of pigeons, Kaitlyn spotted the glorious Granger and packed it in her pillowcase. Kaitlyn managed to climb down the fire escape, but by the time Adam realized his goggles had gone missing, Jaan Vari chased him. The next morning, Adam returned to school with a broken arm and a firm decision to never get involved in any of Kaitlyn’s mischievous plans.

The next line of business for Kaitlyn was making contact with the Russian pigeon mafia, and she sought assistance from the only Russian she knew, her classmate Kiril Koslov. The negotiation scene is hilarious, with grown adult mob men making a deal with a teenager who did not shy away from threatening them. Kaitlyn returned home with 25,000 dollars in her bag. It was not enough to save her home, but it was a stepping stone.

How did Jaan Vari and Kaitlyn become friends?

Kaitlyn knew she was in trouble when Jaan Vari knocked on her door. She assumed he would file a case against her and she would be imprisoned, but Jaan instead chose to keep the entire robbery private. He did not wish to get Maddie involved in her daughter’s mess, and he was hopeful about getting Granger back without causing any trouble. He lost faith when Kaitlyn lied about his beloved bird being with Adam. Jaan wanted Granger back at all costs, and Kaitlyn promised to get his bird back. Of course, it was an impossible challenge, and Kaitlyn alone could not break into the Russian mafia cage. 

Kaitlyn gathered up her courage and decided to admit the truth. She was strangely no longer afraid of facing the consequences of her actions. She was so disappointed with her life that she had lost her will to keep on fighting. Her parents’ divorce, losing her home, and her best friend leaving her —all of it had tremendously impacted the 13-year-old. Kaitlyn wanted to give up on her life—she was not the perfect girl in class, neither were her grades good, her personal life was crumbling down, and it was all just too much for her to deal with. Jaan’s anger dissipated when he figured out what Kaitlyn was going through. He was not sympathetic; instead, he encouraged her to look at the brighter side of things. He had been in the Vietnam War, and he had a clear idea of what tragedy can do to a person, but he also believed that finding moments of joy even in such demanding situations is what life is all about. The heartfelt conversation helped Jaan understand the whimsical teenager better, and in a strange turn of events, they eventually became quite good friends. It was Jaan who helped Kaitlyn realize the importance of friendship in life. He helped her understand the nitty-gritty of pigeon racing, and to Maddie’s surprise, her daughter took a serious interest in the sport. Kaitlyn was fascinated by the birds she initially ignored. She could relate to their will to always return home.

Did the Granger return home?

Jaan and Kaitlyn were determined to bring Granger back home. Kaitlyn believed it was the least she could do after all the trouble Jaan had to live through. She was about to sneak out of her house through the window in her room when her brother stopped her. Matt was severely impacted by the divorce, and it was the first time in a long while that Kaitlyn heard him speak. The plan to steal a pigeon from a Russian mafia appealed to him, and the brother and sister left their house in the middle of the night. The trio lost hope when they reached the mafia’s warehouse and realized that they could not break in since the cage was made of steel. But Matt refused to give up. It had been a long time since he had taken up a challenge, and he was determined to see it through.

Matt had no control over the things that had recently happened in his life, but breaking into the warehouse was something that he could do on his own. He saw a way into the loft through the window, and he risked getting his bones fractured to make it there. At that moment, Matt was immensely proud of himself for not giving up. The climb was symbolic in the sense that, amidst the hardship, he had to remain focused on his goal and take a leap of faith towards success and happiness. Jaan, Kaitlyn, and Matt broke into the loft and found Granger. Kaitlyn left the money she was handed by the mob, and Matt realized how afraid his sister was to lose the house.

As they were about to leave, the Russian pigeon mafia stopped them. Jaan had confidence in Granger and asked Kaitlyn to leave the door of the cage open for it to fly away. Jaan believed that Granger would safely make it back to his house, but unfortunately, his prized possession did not return. To Kaitlyn’s surprise, one morning, she found the Granger on her window sill. She was overjoyed to be reunited with it, especially knowing how happy Jaan would be to see his pigeon. She carefully carried Granger to Jaan’s place, and she was surprised to see him emptying his loft.

What was Jaan Vari’s advice to Kaitlyn?

It had been six years since Jaan had been diagnosed with lung cancer, but he refused to leave his pigeon loft and move to his condo in Arizona. His wife, Carole, worried about his health, but his love for his pigeons controlled every aspect of his life.

During Little Wing‘s ending, when Kaitlyn meets Jaan to hand him Granger, she realizes that he is leaving. Jaan’s condition had worsened, and he had to opt for residential treatment. Jaan had gifted his pigeons to fellow enthusiasts, and he saved some for Kaitlyn as well. When he heard that Granger had flown back to Kaitlyn’s place and not his loft, he realized that his beloved pigeon had chosen Kaitlyn. Jaan trusted his teen friend to look after Granger, and in a way, it was his achievement that he helped a young girl fall in love with pigeons and care for them just like he did. Kaitlyn raced her pigeons, Charlie Ticket and Juliet, and she believed there was no joy greater than watching her birds return home to her in free will. The phenomenon continued to fascinate her. Kaitlyn was overjoyed when Maggie informed her that they would not have to move out. After realizing how important it was for his sister to live in the same house, Matt threatened his father to pay the mortgage. Even though they did not share much, Kaitlyn was thankful to her brother for looking out for her.

Little Wing ends with Kaitlyn visiting Jaan at his residential treatment center. They continued to keep in touch and watch birds from the terrace. Kaitlyn had always wanted to know the meaning of life from her old friend, and in the end, Jaan disclosed that life was sweet, even with all its ups and downs. There will always be days when everything seems to be falling apart, but life is precious to hold on to for those little sweet moments of joy and pure bliss. Life is unpredictable and Kaitlyn and Jaan Vari friendship is just an example. Kaitlyn was hopeless when she met the old man, but here she was, laughing and sharing the tales of her pigeons with him. Jaan believed that life always offered tiny specks of happiness to hold on to, and it was worth fighting off the dark, gloomy times.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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