Little Men
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Ira Sachs
scr Mauricio Zacharias, Ira Sachs
prd Ira Sachs, Lucas Joaquin, Christos V Konstantakopoulos, Jim Lande, LA Teodosio
with Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia, Alfred Molina, Talia Balsam, Teeka Duplessis, Mauricio Bustamante, Ching Valdes-Aran, Clare Foley, Arthur J Nascarella
release US 5.Aug.16, UK 23.Sep.16
16/US 1h25
Little Men
Silent protest: Barbieri and Taplitz

kinnear ehle parcia
east end film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Little Men As in Love Is Strange and Keep the Lights On, Ira Sachs takes a humane approach to conflict with this gently astute drama. Essentially a coming-of-age movie, the story quietly grapples with hugely resonant themes as a group of people struggle to balance their own motives with the needs of others. Where it goes is surprising and powerfully moving.

With money tight because his acting career isn't paying much, Brian (Kinnear) moves with his psychotherapist wife Kathy (Ehle) and their 13-year-old son Jake (Taplitz) from Manhattan into his late father's Brooklyn apartment. Jake immediately befriends Tony (Barbieri), whose mother Leonor (Garcia) runs the shop downstairs. But as their friendship grows, their parents become stuck in a messy negotiation of the loose agreement Leonor had with Brian's father. Brian's sister (Balsam) wants more cash than Leonor can afford. And with tension growing, Jake and Tony make a pact to stop speaking to their parents.

With fine attention to detail, filmmaker Sachs patiently explores each angle of the situation from Jake's curious, concerned perspective. A bit of an outcast, Jake is ridiculed by other kids, but Tony sticks up for him. Their silent protest is much more than just childish acting out, something their preoccupied parents don't understand. All of this plays out refreshingly without histrionics: conversations are reasoned, no one is a villain, character arcs are subtle and deeply personal.

A naturalistic approach allows the actors to create characters who are easy to identify with. Standouts are Barbeiri, whose magnetic energy suggests that a bright career is coming, and the always awesome Garcia, who internalises Leonor's feelings even as she forcefully speaks her mind. Kinnear and Ehle provide softer characterisations as sensitive people who want to do right by everyone, but can't. And Taplitz is remarkably transparent as a loner who knows he's different and isn't sure why.

Where this goes is beautifully understated, which may frustrate viewers who like drama to boil over in obvious ways. The conclusion is both painful and satisfying, followed by a simple but pointed coda. This is a film about the realisation that your loved ones aren't perfect, and that doing the right thing doesn't mean someone won't get hurt. Even more than that, it's about the realisation that you have to be yourself, rise to the challenges and believe in your own skills to find happiness. And that success is another thing entirely.

cert pg themes, some violence 3.Jul.16 eeff

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