The title of Ira Sachs’ Little Men carries an important double meaning. Taken literally it refers to a pair of teenagers whose friendship becomes strained when their parents clash over a deteriorating business relationship. But considering the film’s subtle subtext, it also alludes to a more universal stubbornness and pride that affect those adults who’ve come to expect disappointment in life.
Unlike many a youthful protagonist, Jake’s (Theo Taplitz) life isn’t destroyed upon moving from familiar confines (Manhattan) to a new wild frontier (Brooklyn). The foreign abode belonged to his recently deceased grandfather, whose sudden passing has given parents Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) and Brian (Greg Kinnear) the chance to reside in a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. Lost in the shuffle is another tenant named Leonor (Paulina Garcia), who runs a flailing boutique clothing shop out of the bottom floor to support her son, Tony (Michael Barbieri).
The two boys quickly become best friends even as polite interactions between their parents gradually reveal tense undercurrents. Egged on by his opportunistic sister, Brian eventually approaches Leonor about raising the rent. She resolutely resists for myriad personal reasons, and a nasty stalemate ensues.
Untenable situations in Ira Sachs’ films grow slowly over time, and the debilitating one in Little Men is no different. We get the sense that Jake and Tony’s genuine fondness for each other will weather the storm, defy gravity and refuse to be pulled into the orbit of a complex adult world. Experience teaches us otherwise.
Little Men, which opens on Friday, Sept. 9, is a far more sobering affair compared to Sachs’ previous feature, the joyous and hopeful Love is Strange. But this story exists in a colder version of New York City, where life experience can forever numb the heart.
Barbieri’s raging bull of a performance is a permanent reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Before I Wake: Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane play a couple that adopts a young boy whose dreams and nightmares manifest physically as he sleeps.
Horrible Imaginings Film Festival: Come experience the best horror, thriller and action films the world has to offer with this genre-bending film festival that will also feature panel discussions. Screens from Wednesday, Sept. 7 to Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Little Men: In Ira Sachs’ tender drama, young Jake (Theo Taplitz) learns many lessons about life, death, and friendship after his family relocates to Brooklyn after the passing of his grandfather.
Mia Madre: A director experiencing an existential mid-life crisis must come to grips with the death of her mother in Nanni Moretti’s comedy. Opens on Friday, Sept. 9, at Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas and Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
My King: While recuperating from a terrible skiing accident, a woman (Emmanuel Bercot) remembers a tumultuous relationship with a past lover (Vincent Cassel). Opens Friday, Sept. 9, at Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.
Sully: Clint Eastwood directs this biopic about pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), who miraculously landed a damaged jet liner on the Hudson River in 2009 after its engines were struck by flying birds.
The Wild Life: The amazing story of Robinson Crusoe is told through the eyes of an outgoing parrot in this animated children’s film.
When the Bough Breaks: A surrogate mom for a couple becomes obsessed with the father-to be in this thriller from director Jon Cassar.
Zoom: In this surrealist comedy starring Alison Pill and Gael Garcia Bernal, three different artists from separate realities write stories about one another. Screens through Thursday, Sept. 8, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.