Review: Little Men (2016)


Little Men (2016)

Directed by: Ira Sachs | 85 minutes | drama | Actors: Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Greg Kinnear, Paulina García, Jennifer Ehle, Alfred Molina, Talia Balsam, Mauricio Bustamante

Is puberty really the most difficult time of your life? Don’t feel attached to anything except peers, because you’re too old for childish games, but too young for adult affairs – the adults then think. ‘Little Men’ is about two thirteen-year-old boys who find each other thanks to their parents, but who are also put in a difficult position by the same parents in which their friendship may not last. They try to solve this in their own, sometimes immature, sometimes very mature way.

Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz) is a sensitive, calm boy. He is completely absorbed in his hobby, drawing, for example, of scenes and characters from Rick Riordan’s books about Percy Jackson. When his grandfather dies, his parents – the under-successful actor Brian (Greg Kinnear) and psychotherapist Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) – decide to move from Manhattan to the Brooklyn apartment he left them. There was not much contact with Brian’s father Max, but they do know his long-term tenant, Leonor Calvelli (Paulina García), who runs an exclusive clothing store under the house. Max and Leonor were good friends and that is also the reason that she has been paying a low amount in rent for years. Now that Max has passed away, Brian’s sister Audrey also claims part of the inheritance, and so the rent of the shop has to go up considerably.

But in the meantime, Jake and Tony, Leonor’s son, have become close friends. Tony (Michael Barbieri) is Jake’s polar opposite in many things, but they get on well from the start. They share their desire to attend LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, but for now they only spend their free time together.

And what a joy it is to see the friendship between the two boys blossom. Set against the backdrop of Brooklyn – which has become much more “bohemian” (Tony’s words) – the film has a recognizable atmosphere, which contributes to the feeling that you are watching a realistic story. Filmmaker Ira Sachs co-wrote the screenplay with Mauricio Zacharias and they’ve managed to create a gripping slice-of-life, with characters that feel more real than usual, dealing with problems that everyone can relate to. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreakingly sad – and what great actors for the camera. The great thing about ‘Little Men’ is that you can understand everyone’s point of view, even that of Audrey, who is only briefly in the picture. ‘Little Men’ is a beautiful, sensitive film about friendship and growing up and the realization that not everything is easy to solve, not when you are an adolescent, but certainly not when you are an adult.

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