10 Child Performers Who Aren’t Horrifyingly Obnoxious

This week, the underrated and rather lovely 1991 drama Little Man Tate makes its Blu-ray debut; it’s a film best known as Jodie Foster’s first in the director’s chair, but it also features a terrific Adam Hann-Byrd in the title role. His is one of those performances that come along every once in a while to remind you that, contrary to how it might seem, not all child actors are bratty, shrieking nightmares, cloyingly cute moppets, and/or smartass one-liner machines. Here are a few more of that rare ilk.

 Adam Hann-Byrd and Jodie Foster in "Little Man Tate"

Adam Hann-Byrd in Little Man Tate

Foster not only directed but co-starred (in the same year as Silence of the Lambs, even), playing a working-class mom to a boy genius. Hann-Byrd acts the role as neither cute and cuddly nor alienating; he’s just a nice kid who’s super-smart, and thus doesn’t really relate to kids his age. Dianne Wiest is the facilitator of a school for exceptional kids who seems to offer a way out, but Scott Frank’s evenhanded script doesn’t see anyone as all good or all bad; there’s a snobbery to her approach, and the film is endlessly savvy about the way class can creep into conversations and considerations of education and intellect. Foster also seems to bring much of her own knowledge of what it is to be an exceptional kid, and is sympathetic to it; when he tells his mom he doesn’t want a birthday party, your heart just breaks (even more so when she cuts to what happens next).