Festival Review: Little Men (2016)

Little Men

A delicate portrait of friendship and fractious neighbours, Ira Sachs’ Little Men is an all-too-brief glimpse into the hopes and dreams of a Brooklyn boy.

My Summer Of Love

by Mark Wilshin

Little Men

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Almost an epilogue to Love Is Strange, taking up the story of the grandfather’s death from the boy’s perspective, Ira Sachs’ Little Men is a delicate rumination on teenage friendship, and the nefarious effects of parents’ behaviour on a friendship romance. Like most of Sachs’ films, his characters negotiate their problems with empathy and delicacy, as Jacob’s parents Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) inherit his father’s Brooklyn apartment, taking over the tenancy of the shop downstairs, run by Leonor (Paulina Garcia) and, after attempts to negotiate the raising of her rent fail, evict her. But it’s also the story of their sons Tony (Michael Barbieri) and Jake (Theo Taplitz) who become fast friends, skating and hanging out together or encouraging each other in their acting, drawing and dreams of attending the LaGuardia School of Arts. With typical ellipses, such as the family’s move from their small Manhattan flat to their larger Brooklyn apartment, as well as long travelling sequences of the boys’ skating, Little Men is a sensitive portrait of a brief but intense friendship. It’s slighter than Sachs’ previous films, and while it refuses to give its nostalgic slice of life the Hollywood treatment, it remains a sad endorsement of middle-class aspiration and achievement. But with delicious performances from both Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri as well as Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle, Little Men is undoubtedly a great pleasure.

Little Men is now showing at the Berlin Film Festival

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