Ira Sachs’ (Love is Strange) latest film uses a story about two young boys whose friendship is threatened by their warring parents to offer a piercing examination of gentrification in America.
When 13-year-old Jake’s (Theo Taplitz) grandfather dies, his family moves from Manhattan back into his father’s old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends the charismatic Tony (Michael Barbieri), whose single mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia, Gloria), a dressmaker from Chile, runs the shop downstairs. Soon, Jake’s parents Brian (Greg Kinnear, Little Miss Sunshine) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle, The King’s Speech, TV’s Pride and Prejudice)—one, a struggling actor, the other, a psychotherapist—ask Leonor to sign a new, steeper lease on her store. For Leonor, the proposed new rent is untenable, and a feud ignites between the adults.
At first, Jake and Tony do not seem to notice; the two boys, so different on the surface, begin to develop a formative kinship as they discover the pleasures of being young in Brooklyn. Jake aspires to be an artist, while Tony wants to be an actor, and they have dreams of going to the same prestigious arts high school together. But the children cannot avoid the problems of their parents forever, and soon enough, the adult conflict intrudes upon the borders of their friendship.
“The humanity Sachs and his actors depict is profound and leaves a mark. Dickon Hinchliffe’s perfectly judged score percolates throughout. The cumulative effect of the film is heart-rending.” (Nigel M. Smith, The Guardian)
“The performances are impeccable. Sachs is a master of expressive understatement, and that applies both to the young actors playing the boys—there’s not a false moment from either of them—and to the adults.” (David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter)
“The remarkable, magical thing about this film is that, at 85 minutes, it’s so whole. With its fully-formed people and changing places, Little Men is a film a viewer can live in, and think about while they’re there.” (Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International)