Ira Sachs has a knack for telling extremely personal and immensely moving New York stories about an average, everyday guy. This film is no exception either, a complex family drama shrouded by a heartwarmingly delicate coming-of-age story about two polar opposite yet eminently ambitious teenagers. Little Men delves into the psyche of two families dealing with the ever-so-evolving dilemma of the gentrification in the New York suburbs.
Roller skating and kick scootering between their respective Brooklyn brownstones, Jake (the introvert artist) and Tony (the extrovert actor) develop a friendship unlike any other. Video games, sleepovers, acting classes, crushing over girls and aspiring to get into a reputed art school is what their day comprises of. Though their physical world is limited to these suburbs, their desires, just like their friendship are boundless.
On the flipside, there is a practical, real world of economics, expenses, tenants, rents, contracts, and bills. Tony’s mother and Jake’s parents are stuck with an unpleasant situation of literally, fighting it out for their livelihood. What starts as an amicable situation that both parties are trying to salvage, soon turns into an ugly spat about one’s wishes and the practicality of actually making it happen.
There are no sides to be taken. There is no winner or a loser. There is just this empty abyss, a horrid human moment that no one can prevent, nor avoid. It is the harsh, disgusting truth about living in a modern day New York. One day you’re living your dream, hanging out with your best friend, living amongst happy and respectful neighbors and the very next day, it all bites the dust, those friendships, those relationships, those special people, all gone. What remains is a desperate attempt to salvage, cherish and celebrate those special moments and those exceptional relationships.
Little Men has a lot going for it; a tightly written script complemented by a personal layer of Ira’s intimate directing style, a rousing background score that is synonymous to the budding friendship between the lead protagonists, effortless yet simplistic beauty of timeless Brooklyn captured by Óscar Durán and brilliant performances from the cast, especially the lead ‘little men’ who defy their age and give one of the standout performances of this year. Aptly titled the ‘Little Men’, this films captured beautifully captures that precise moment in a teenager’s life when the childhood innocence is superseded by grown-up pragmatism.