LITTLE MEN (2016) film review by Gwen Hughes

No, definitely not Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men. This film from director Ira Sachs tells the story of a friendship between two young boys growing up in Brooklyn.

Brian and Kathy Jardine (Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle) move to Brooklyn with their 13-year-old son, Jake (Theo Taplitz), after Brian’s dad dies and leaves them the building he owns. Having grown up in Manhattan, Jake is reticent at first but learns to enjoy the quieter side of the city and space to roam.  

Jake befriends Tony (Michael Barbieri), another 13-year-old whose mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia) rents the storefront below the Jardines’ apartment. Exuberant Tony dreams of being an actor and looks to Jake’s dad, a washed-up movie star for inspiration, because his own absentee father is a nurse working overseas.

Jake and Tony spend days rollerblading and scootering through Brooklyn. Sleepovers and video games abound. But problems arise when Jake’s parents must raise Leonor’s rent to support their family. Leonor objects, citing her close relationship with Brian’s late father as the reason she deserves to stay. She’s a single parent, an immigrant and longtime tenant, and she won’t go down without a fight.

The dilemma is unique, and the solution is sure to be complex, if it exists at all.

Amidst this simple story, some scenes drag. Long scenes are used to exhibit the slower pace of life in Brooklyn but frequently end up feeling rather clunky.  

Overall though, the script is tight. Insightful and simple dialogue is knocked out of the park by perfect casting. The two young boys, newly discovered by Ira Sachs, give honest and raw performances. A highlight is Theo Taplitz’s emotional monologue at the end of the film – he had me in tears.

Paulina Garcia is also incredible. The Chilean actress plays the role of disgruntled Leonor beautifully. She shines in the uncomfortable money discussions with Kinnear, where her searing and highly personal insults pack a punch.

Little Men is simple and unassuming. Friendship is at its heart, but the demands of parents and city life won’t let up. Head to Hulu and see how they fare.

(Now streaming on Hulu)

~~~~

Gwen Hughes is a seasoned writer and the Editor-in-Chief at Madison Park Living magazine. When she is not working, she enjoys reading short stories, quoting John Mulaney Netflix specials, and eating family-size boxes of Mott’s Fruit Snacks. 

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