Director Ira Sachs’s new film, “Little Men” (which opened this year’s BAMcinemaFest), empathetically observes his characters at a rough time in their lives, adolescence–and middle age.
Thirteen-year-old Jake (Theo Taplitz), shaggy-haired and awkward, reluctantly moves with his parents Brian and Kathy from Manhattan to his father’s childhood home in Brooklyn after his grandfather dies. He meets and forms a defining (albeit unlikely) friendship with Tony (Michael Barbieri), popular and self-assured, whose Chilean single mother, Leonor, runs a dressmaking shop/boutique on the building’s ground floor.
Brian (Greg Kinnear), and his sister Audrey, unable and unwilling to offer Leonor (Paulina Garcia) their father’s generous terms, send her a new lease, significantly increasing her rent. The wedge–gentrification, class, privilege–that will separate the boys is in place. Initially they’re immune to the adults’ hostilities and dash around Brooklyn, sharing a dream of attending a prestigious arts high school together–Tony wants to be an actor, Jake, an artist.
Leonor, an immigrant woman of color, struggling to make it into the middle class, is radically written, allowed to be complicated and respond accordingly to her situation. She’s angry, difficult and prickly. She tells Greg, an unsuccessful actor, that she was more a part of his father, Max’s, family that he was. And demeaning him, spews that Max didn’t like that Kathy (Jennifer Ehle), a psychotherapist, paid the family’s bills.
Recently on WNYC discussing “Little Men,” Sachs said that he often thinks of a line from a Jean Renoir masterpiece, “The Rules of the Game,” in understanding his characters: “Everyone has their reasons.”
And as Jake critiques “The Seagull,” after watching the off-off-off Broadway production starring his father, “It’s complex,” he seems to understand that life in Brooklyn is as well.
“Little Men” will have a sneak preview tonight at IFC Center at 7:00 pm, followed by a Q&A with Ira Sachs and Michael Barbieri. The film will open on Friday, August 5 at IFC Center (Q&As with Sachs on Saturday, August 6 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, August 7 at 5:00 pm) and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (Q&As on Friday, August 5 at 7:30 pm and on Sunday, August 7 at 3:30 pm). A nationwide rollout will follow.