phone mail2 facebook twitter play
REVIEW: Little Men

REVIEW: Little Men

25 September 2016 Stephanie Brandhuber  | Entertainment

Subtly captivating and scrupulously observational, Ira Sach’s latest film Little Men is moving, human, and quietly bittersweet.

Ira Sachs is known for his delicate and carefully crafted portrayals of human relationships, best seen in his past films Love is Strange (2014) and Keep the Lights On (2012). Sachs is a true expert in magnifying life’s overlooked moments and interactions, which is precisely what he has done in his shrewdly realistic tale of gentrification and friendship in Little Men. Choosing to set his latest film in Brooklyn as opposed to his normal Manhattan backdrop, Ira Sachs presents a devastatingly nuanced look through the gaze of adolescence on the real-life effects of family feuds and a city's transformation .
                             
 Brian Jardine (Greg Kinnear) is a struggling actor who relies on his psychotherapist wife Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) to support the family financially, while their artistic 13-year old son Jake (Theo Taplitz) dreams of one day attending La Guardia High School as a budding artist. When Brian’s father dies, the family packs up their Manhattan home and moves into Brian’s late father’s Brooklyn apartment which comes with a storefront downstairs, occupied by Chilean dressmaker Leonor (Paulina Garcia). Leonor’s son Tony (Michael Barbier) instantly  befriends the quieter, more sensitive Jake and the two form a sudden, and deep friendship. This close bond that the two young boys develop only adds to the awkwardness that comes when Brian attempts to raise Leonor’s rent in order to support his family and his sister Audrey (Talia Balsam), after years of the shop’s rent remaining stagnant thanks to Leonor’s and Brian’s late father’s friendship. We see this bitter, passive-aggressive conflict over money unfold through the eyes of Tony and Jack, who can’t quite comprehend, thanks to their child naivety, why their parents can’t just see eye to eye over the matter.
 
What Ira Sachs offers us is a rarely-looked-at subject in most films: the realities of money troubles and the damaging effect it can have on the people involved. Little Men pits two distinct categories of New Yorkers against each other, both of whom have understandable points of view but neither offering  a clear-cut solution to their problems. The sensitivity with which Sachs approaches this subject matter and the raw humanism behind it is depicted in such a multi-layered manner that the impact of its telling is sure to stay with viewers long after they've left the cinema.
 
While this tale of two families in awkward conflict could have been potentially saccharine or even satirically comical, Sachs' approach to his film is so delicate and unobtrusive that he instead offers his viewers the opportunity to embody a wide-eyed spectator of the city, observant of life's intricacies, just as Tony and Jake see the world. This is also surely a testament to the two young actors' brilliant portrayals of their young adolescent characters and the love that and the deep connection that forms between them. Tony's bold, outgoing personality perfectly balances Jake's shyness and sensitivity and the friendship that forms between them is almost akin to a first love. Indeed, the film is at its best when the adult world of money problems is cut through with the natural optimism of the two young boys.
 
Little Men is a little story told with big heart. It is modest in its telling, yet bold in its courage to shine a light on real emotions felt in what could be a very real situation. Ira Sachs is truly proving himself to be a master of humanism and a expert in intelligent, thought-provoking cinema, and his latest film is not to be missed.
  
 4/5 stars

Tell us what you think

You may also like

This Week 16-22 January

This Week 16-22 January

The weather is feeling pretty biting at the moment, but luckily this week there are plenty of events to warm you up and keep you...

Top 5 Jazz Venues

Top 5 Jazz Venues

On these cold winter nights, there’s really nothing better than relaxing in a cosy basement club with cocktails, listening to world-class musicians do their...

Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

In the midst of a stressful life, losing yourself in an exhibition can be the ultimate form of escapism. As always, London’s cultural institutions...

Drinking Gems to Beat Dry January

Drinking Gems to Beat Dry January

How have we reached the end of another year? After what sometimes feels like months of build-up you’ll soon be saying goodbye to the...

The Place Presents: Resolution 2017

The Place Presents: Resolution 2017

Every year throughout January and February The Place, which lies slap-bang between Euston and Kings Cross St Pancras, hosts an eclectic and increasingly diverse platform...

Top 5: Calm Places in London for a Moment of Reflection

Top 5: Calm Places in London for a Moment of Reflection

London is a chaotic city, and most of our lives are spent running from one place to another. In the middle of all this madness,...

Discover London: A Walk Along London’s Canals

Discover London: A Walk Along London’s Canals

The London Canals, running along busy throughways and meandering around some of the capital’s best-known locations, are still somewhat of a secret spot – if...

The Art of Louis Wain Exhibition

The Art of Louis Wain Exhibition

Since 1930, Bethlem Royal Hospital, now home to the Museum of the Mind, has stood in Beckenham. Throughout its 800 years of existence, the infamous psychiatric institution...

Six Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in London

Six Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in London

London is full of fantastic tourist attractions and offers plenty of entertainment for those visiting the city. However, if you don't fancy fighting your way...

Top 5: Viewpoints in London

Top 5: Viewpoints in London

They say it’s only when you look from above where you can experience great things. This couldn’t be more true of our great...

More inspiration...

This Week 16-22 January

This Week 16-22 January

From elaborate light festivals through to groundbreaking exhibitions and free comedy, we explore the greatest events coming to the capital.
A Day in the Life of a Poetry Translator

A Day in the Life of a Poetry Translator

We speak to Claire Pollard to find out more about the process of translating the sentiments and expressions of the world's poetry for English-speaking audiences.
Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London

Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London

This latest exhibition seeks to honour the life of John Lockwood Kipling, a champion of Indian craftsmanship.
RSC’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing

RSC’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing

We take a look at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing at The Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Top 5 Jazz Venues

Top 5 Jazz Venues

We’ve rounded up five excellent jazz hubs that are bringing New Orleans vibes to Central London and beyond.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!