When a film encourages the viewer to dwell back to our close childhood friends, one cannot help to think: why didn’t that close friendship last? Everyone has numerous reasons, however the friendship between our two protagonists or more rather ‘Little Men’ is truthful, touching and tragic. Writer/director Ira Sachs has brought to the screens an independent gem of a film, simply because it’s so genuine and simple that the occurrences could happen to anyone. Did you ever have a close friend? So close that you remember the sleepovers? The computer games you played and sharing dreams to go to the same college together? Why did that friendship fizzle out? Everyone’s reasons are different, but in ‘Little Men’ two boys friendship is put to the test that structures a simple but superb piece of drama.
The plot is simplistic yet intriguing. When 13-year-old Jake’s (Theo Taplitz) grandfather passes away, his family moves from Manhattan back into his father’s old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends the charming Tony (Michael Barbieri), whose single mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia), a dressmaker from Chile, runs the shop downstairs. Soon, Jake’s parents Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) the father, a struggling actor, the mother, a psychotherapist, asks Leonor to sign a new, steeper lease on her store. For Leonor, the proposed new rent is unaffordable, and a dispute ignites between the adults. At first, Jake and Tony don’t seem to notice; the two boys, so different on the surface, begin to develop a beautiful connection as they discover the pleasures of being young in Brooklyn. Jake aspires to be an artist, while Tony wants to be an actor, and they have dreams of going to the same prestigious arts high school together. But the children can’t avoid the problems of their parents forever, and soon enough, the adult conflict intrudes upon the borders of their friendship.
The performances are ingenuous, naturalistic and alluring. These are characters that are ordinary people and everyone can empathise with each characters motivation as we understand everyone’s side of the story. The actuality that Sachs has created flawed characters that the viewer will be fond of, it is interesting that the viewer will not take sides as we can support everyone’s reasons for not coming to a resolution. Furthermore, what is it about Greg Kinnear, constantly playing a father with flaws but deep down has a good heart? The reason is simply because he’s good at it. He has good chemistry with all the child actors he works with, that one can see he is a man of tender fatherly qualities simply because he’s humanistic.
Most notably the two child actors are what make this film worth watching. The viewer without a doubt can feel nostalgic as the majority have all been there. A friendship that is so close, but sadly a parting may teach children to mourn and move on. Jake’s (Theo Taplitz) playing Kinnear’s son is so emotionless and natural, however when the final climax towards the end takes place, his performance can be compared to Timothy Hutton’s Academy Award winning performance in Robert Redford’s ‘Ordinary People.’ The true standout of the film was the charming Tony (Michael Barbieri). To witness a young teenager’s acting talent, with serious confidence and charisma, most viewers will immediately compare him to a young Al Pacino, considering his features and strong Brooklyn accent. Without a doubt these two leads are the new talent to watch out for. The door of Hollywood awaits them. The question is will they walk through it? Watch the space.
| Aly Lalji
Drama, Family | USA, 2016 | PG | Altitude Film Distribution | 23rd September 2016 (UK) |Dir.Ira Sachs | Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina García, Michael Barbieri, Theo Taplitz, Alfred Molina