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), a dressmaker from Chile, rents the shop downstairs. Soon, Jake's parents Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) - 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 and their conflict eventually intrudes upon the borders of their friendship.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Five superb central performances glue us to this little gem of a drama set in contemporary Brooklyn, where a past friendship inadvertently infects one in the present. The screenplay is a masterclass in observation - a point echoed in an acting class attended by aspiring young actor Tony (Michael Barbieri).
Like Theo Taplitz as Jake, Barbieri is outstanding; both are natural and powerful - and we can't take our eyes off them. Their friendship is the backbone of the story, as we follow it from its beginning to its haunting finale. The screenplay demands much of the boys, a wide range of emotions and complex actions, and they are more than capable of doing it justice.
This friendship is threatened with disruption by outside factors: Jake's parents (Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle - both brilliant) need to raise the rent on the shop downstairs, where Tony's single mum Leonor (Paulina Garcia) makes and sells dresses. Originally a friendly arrangement with Jake's late grandfather, the rent is now so far below market and current costs, Jake's parents need to raise it. But Leonor can't afford to pay ... It's a conflict imposed on the two families by circumstance.
The boys don't understand what is happening when a coldness enters the adults' relationship and they respond angrily. Together.
The film's tone, however, is gentle, without a hint of melodrama and the resolution is both natural and benign, tinged with melancholy.
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LITTLE MEN (PG)
CAST: Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia, Alfred Molina
PRODUCER: Lucas Joaquin, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Jim Lande, Ira Sachs
DIRECTOR: Ira Sachs
SCRIPT: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oscar Duran
EDITOR: Mollie Goldstein, Alfonso Goncalves
MUSIC: Dickon Hinchliffe
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alexandra Schaller
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 8, 2016