A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS
Dito Montiel (Robert Downey Jr.), a successful writer now living in Los Angeles, is summoned home to his poor burb of Astoria, in New York, 15 years after he fled, by his mother Flaurie (Dianne Wiest), when his father (Chazz Palminteri) becomes seriously ill. Memories of his youth come flooding back, when teenage Dito (Shia LaBeouf) lived among the few childhood friends (the 'saints') who aren't in prison or dead. These 'saints' include Laurie (Melonie Diaz), Dito's childhood sweetheart and Antonio (Channing Tatum), Dito's cocky and volatile best friend. As Dito comes to terms with the ghosts of his past, he must find a way to rebuild a relationship with his ailing but distant father, who never forgave him for leaving.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Developed with the help of the Sundance Institute and winner of the Best Dramatic Direction Award there in 2006 (as well as the Award for Ensemble Performance), Dito Montiel's autobiographical film is full of raw emotional power and infused with painful observation. What makes it compelling viewing is the combination of characters who are forcefully real the insight into Astoria in the late 80s as a suburb of misery and danger, and finally Montiel's cinematic treatment of his own story, in which he unflinchingly lays it all bare. He doesn't even change his name for the central character.
The cathartic value must be enormous, as Montiel uncovers his demons from his teenage years, when the oppressive and destructive neighbourhood almost crushed him. The film shows why, in a series of flashbacks as the grown up Montiel answers his mother's appeal and returns from Los Angeles, where his writing has elevated him to some sort of success. But his painful personal past has never been forgotten and the return stirs the memories.
The memories are treated as flashbacks, jumping with sudden energy from present to past, from the introspection to the turmoil, chaos and desperation of those unforgettable late teen years. His friends are a motley crew, joined together by nothing more than geography and circumstance. The fights, the drugs, the alienation all take their toll.
His girlfriend Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and his parents (Chazz Palminetri and Dianne Wiest with exceptional performances) are heartbroken at his departure, and when he returns, it's a bumpy ride. And it's a bumpy ride for the audience, too, an emotionally gripping, draining and yet enlightening experience.
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A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS (MA)
CAST: Robert Downey jnr, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Shia LaBeouf, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Channing Tatum, Eric Roberts, Peter Tambakis, Scott Campbell
PRODUCER: Charlie Corwin, Clara Markowitz, Trudy Styler, Travis Swords
DIRECTOR: Dito Montiel
SCRIPT: Dito Montiel
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Gautier
EDITOR: Jake Pushinsky, Christopher Tellefsen
MUSIC: Jonathan Elias, Jimmy Haun, David Wittman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jody Asnes
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Jump Street Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 16, 2006