Directed by Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs is an excellent filmmaker whose realistic dramas always find something worthy to say.
His latest feature “Little Men”, co-written once again with the Brazilian Mauricio Zacharias, is an engaging follow-up to the irresistible “Love Is Strange”, one of the best movies of 2014 starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a married gay couple living in New York.
For this keenly observant new story set in Brooklyn, the filmmaker has his eyes centered on two teenagers whose destinies suddenly come across, becoming inseparable friends. Sadly, that friendship is forced to come to an end due to the business matters that separate their families.
The quiet and sensitive Jake (Theo Taplitz), who keeps drawing the hardest to become an artist, wasn't satisfied for moving into Brooklyn with his parents, Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy Jardine (Jennifer Ehle), after the death of his granddad. However, this change will bring Tony (Michael Barbieri), a far more expansive and talkative kid whose dream is to become an actor, into his life. Tony lives alone with his caring mother, the Chilean-born Leonor (Paulina García), who runs a small dress shop located in the Jardines’ building, right below their apartment. As a close friend of Brian’s father, Leonor kept paying a low rent, contrasting with the rest of the neighborhood, forced to adapt to the real-estate market changes throughout the years.
Brian is a struggling actor who has a new play but is not doing so well, relying on his wife to provide for the family. The building was left to him and his inflexible sister as inheritance and is now their intention to triplicate the rent and set a new lease. Obviously, Leonor can’t afford to pay that amount, and with no margin to negotiate, she faces an eviction process that taints the friendship of Jake and Tony.
The situation we see here is crushing in many ways. Yet, at the end, we are shown that life goes on, even leaving a bitter taste in our mouths and triggering a tremendous compassion for the misfortune that embraced this pair of innocent friends.
Intrinsically, the film subtly suggests that Jake is in love with Tony who, in turn, shows to have a crush on a girl who attends the same acting workshop he does.
“Little Men” is a thoughtful, humane, and well-acted film that validates Ira Sachs as a grounded character-builder and one of the most interesting directors of the modern American cinema.