Death is always uncomfortable. Those left are always second guessing what their loved one would’ve thought or how they would want their wishes to be carried out. Often times, when there is a child who has been coddled and protected by the deceased parent, it forces them to grow up rapidly in ways they don’t necessarily want or expect.
Direct from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Ira Sachs examines the friendship of two teenaged boys and how the social/economic gaps between their families threatens to overwhelm and undermine that relationship.
In the wake of Jake’s Grandfather passing, he and his family move from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Sensitive and shy Jake (Thos Taplitz) quickly becomes besties with Tony (Michael Barbieri), who is a little more gregarious by nature and is fiercely protective of his new best friend.
While the boys are bonding, the adults are fighting! over real estate. Apparently, Jake’s grandfather didn’t handle all of his business, leaving the lease for a dress shop he owned up for grabs. When Leonor (Paulina Garcia) decides that it is her right to stay at the shop without raising the rent, an immature, unflattering behavior casts a cloud over both the tragic and comedic contrasts to the world that Tony and Jake share.
Michael Barbieri (Tony) and Theo Taplitz (Jake) carry this film, much in the way Tatum O’Neal carried Paper Moon and Abigail Breslin carried Little Miss Sunshine. Their scenes together are entertaining to say the least, but it’s moment they are alone with other actors where they really have an opportunity to shine.
The highlight of the whole scene is where Tony is in a Meisner acting class doing a repetition exercise with his instructor that literally garnered applause from the audience at the screening I attended.
Paulina Garcia as Leonor is deliciously despicable. Your heart breaks for her. You realize not only did she lose someone she loved, but now is losing the security of a home, job and business due to no fault of her own. As a Chilean mother, she is struggling to give her son the best life possible and feels like she is failing.
Greg Kinnear as Brian is subtle, yet extremely effective as the small time actor juggling the pressure of marriage and kids in the midst of coping with family loss.
Having been a military brat, I am all too familiar with making great friends, moving away and losing touch as the years go by. You try desperately to hold on to the good times, but life goes on. The only solace you have is that somehow those friends changed the kaleidoscope of you childhood and made you a little richer for having met them.
Ironically, Ira Sachs shared at a recent Q&A that Little Men picks up where Love So Strange leaves off. Love So Strange ends with a kid on a skateboard and Little Men begins with a kid on a skateboard. Sachs thought it would be interesting to see what happens to that kid. Guess What Ira? Not only was it interesting, but I loved it!!!
Little Men will be in limited release beginning today, August 5th.