“Our parents are involved in a business matter. It’s gettin’ ugly so they’re taking it out on us.”
At scarcely 80 minutes along Ira Sachs manages to do a lot with a little. ‘Little Men’ manages to compassionately yet subjectively examine grief, friendship and growing up in a suprising amount of depth and detail. We empathise with characters we may not like, understand characters with experiences that may be unfamiliar and realise that nobody is truly a monster which is a lot like reality really…
After the death of his grandfather, Jake (Taplitz) and his parents move to the Brooklyn apartment he left for them. He also left in his will the shop underneath the apartment that is currently being rented Leonor (Garcia) at a price far below typical rental prices in the area. Before Jake’s father, Brian (Kinnear) gets to fully address the issue he finds that Jake and Leonor’s son Tony (Barbieri) have become fast friends – which makes the issue of increasing Leonor’s rent a whole lot trickier and with futher-reaching consequences.
Where ‘Little Men’ truly excels is in it’s ability to show drama without melodrama. The film is made up of small scenes that add together as opposed to building to a climax. It shows lives that feel real and emotions that feel authentic. Its characters are human and their actions humane; no-one is condemned for their choices, they are simply understood. We cannot condemn either family for their actions, neither party is vilified
There’s also a prevailing sense of awkwardness within many of the scenes which further develops the sense of realism. The film warrants the label of a ‘coming-of-age’ movie but perhaps not in the way we are used to. Yes we are watching the blossoming of two very different boys – Jake is quiet & favours blending in the background whereas Tony is gregarious and personable – but we are also watching the adults in their journeys. The inevitable conclusion ends up being that we never really ‘grow-up’ – adults face the exact same struggle of understanding each other just within slightly different situations.
Every actor brings a great amount to proceedings but my MVP has to be Michael Barbieri as Tony. His scene with his acting coach (pictured above) is surprisingly long for a film that doesn’t have much time to spare and is remarkably simple. Yet a lot manages to be told in this scene and it ends up being surprsingly reflexive in its capacity to show us the acting skill of both Tony and the actor playing him. It also futher highlights just how different he and Jake are along with how unlikely their friendship truly is. The closest cinematic friendship I could think of whilst watching is that of ‘The Fox & The Hound’ – how two different people can unite than find themselves being pushed apart by external circumstances and differences in nature.
A wonderfully unjaded examination of moderntity that is both quiet and compassionate in its relative simplicty.
Dir: Ira Sachs
Country:USA Year: 2016 Run time: 85 minutes
Little Men opens in UK cinemas on September 23rd.