A new pair of best friends have their bond tested by their parents’ battle over a dress shop lease.
Ira Sachs follow up to ‘Love is Strange’, a critically acclaimed film that I was mostly indifferent too, returns to the New York setting for another slice of everyday life in ‘Little Men’. I enjoyed this film a lot more than ‘Love is Strange’, finding myself taken in by the characters and invested in their fates. The film explores two primary stories; one focusing on the friendship between two 13 year old boys, and the other focusing on a conflict over rent between the boys parents. You could be mistaken for thinking nothing happens in ‘Little Men’ but that would be to ignore the nuance and subtle way it tells its story and gets its themes across. On the surface this is a simple coming of age story about a friendship between two teenage boys, but the overlying story has more to say about gentrification and how people react to and cope with changes in their life.
Like many great thought provoking films, ‘Little Men’ makes you consider the arguments on both sides without picking a side itself, allowing the viewer to sympathise with both perspectives. Brian (Greg Kinnear) is within his rights to expect Leonor (Paulina Garcia) to pay the market rate for rent, but this is complicated by her previous friendship with his recently deceased father and her position is understandable in being resistant to the current changes in the neighbourhood. I found Leonor tougher to sympathise with because she makes no effort to compromise and no effort to change, but the stronger emotional reaction comes from the impact their parents actions have on Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri), who have built up a strong relationship.
The adult performances are beautifully underplayed, with Greg Kinnear in particular excelling, but ‘Little Men’ excels because of the excellent child performances, with both Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri terrifically naturalistic. A lot of the film is just sequences of them playing, living life, and it’s very slice of life in its approach. There’s minimal focus on big fights or dramatic moments, just a series of conversations and events that affect the characters, but it feels natural and Ira Sachs directs in such a way that we feel truly invested in these moments.
‘Little Men’ is small scale storytelling with a lot to say in its short runtime, and I highly recommend it.
Directed By: Ira Sachs
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Paulina Garcia, Jennifer Ehle, Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Talia Balsam and Alfred Molina