"Little Man Tate" Movie Plot

by Audrey Farley

The 1991 feature "Little Man Tate" was directed by Jodie Foster, who also starred in the film. The movie depicts the life of a seven-year-old genius. In addition to Foster, Adam Hann-Byrd, Harry Connick, Jr. and Dianne Wiest star. Much of the movie was filmed in downtown Cincinnati.


"Little Man Tate" relates the story of Fred Tate, a very intelligent little boy who is a kind of child prodigy. Tate, however, is a social outcast; he struggles to find a place for himself in a world that does not accommodate people of his abilities. His mother, Dede, tries to give him a happy and somewhat typical childhood while simultaneously encouraging him to develop his talents.

The Tates

The movie begins by depicting the life of Dede and Fred Tate. Dede, a single mother, works hard to support her young boy. Although Dede is of but mediocre intelligence, her son is abnormally smart. Dede knows that her son is a genius since his verbal and math abilities far exceed the levels of his peers. Fred is a very helpful and obedient son, assisting his mom with chores and household tasks.

Invitation to the School

Jane Greirson, a school psychologist, notices Fred, who is also a gifted pianist. Ms. Grierson asks Dede if Fred may attend the school for gifted children that she oversees. Although Dede is initially hesitant, wanting Fred to have a normal life, she agrees; Fred adapts to his new school immediately, as the other students are gifted as well.

Experience at School

While at the school, Fred meets a fellow student named Damon Wells. Damon is a brilliant, if somewhat eccentric, classmate; he is a math whiz that routinely wears a black cape wherever he goes. Damon is very mean and pretentious, however, and he does not appreciate children's activities that are not intellectual. Fred becomes very depressed when he experiences the cruelty of intellectuals; he misses his "normal" friends at public school.

The Television Show

Ms. Greirson arranges for Fred to appear on a television show so that she can showcase his genius. While he is on the air, Fred repeats a simple poem written by a classmate at his old school. He does this intentionally to upset Ms. Greirson and the elitist school officials that only care about academic achievements. After this incident, his mother decides to send him back to public school. She and Fred have learned that a normal upbringing, which is not marked by pretensions, will make him happy; they realize that it is not worth sacrificing Fred's happiness for the sake of academic achievement. Fred and his mother decide that he can develop his talents while still enjoying his childhood.

About the Author

Audrey Farley began writing professionally in 2007. She has been featured in various issues of "The Mountain Echo" and "The Messenger." Farley has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Richmond and a Master of Arts in English literature from Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches English composition at a community college.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images