Rated: PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: August 5, 2016 Released by: Magnolia Pictures
Rendered with a low-key affection for characters and situations revolving around gentrification is Ira Sachs's recognizable, yet affecting Little Men.
Purportedly the finale of a trilogy, this one has a coming-of-age slant, latching on nicely to the previous picture (especially in capturing class division around the Big Apple) with John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, the latter having a smaller role here.
The bond between two artistically-inclined 13-year-olds, Jake and Tony (Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, in his film debut) forms the crux of Sachs's intentions to examine a variety of emotional situations and conflict from Jake's curious, loner, bullied perspective. To help encapsulate a resonance of heartbreak from a hardship that is endure on the cusp of happiness and success. As both try to enter the same magnet arts high school.
The move of Jake and his economically enervated parents ( struggling actor Greg Kinnear, psychotherapist, instructive Jennifer Ehle) from Manhattan to Brooklyn to inherit his late father's apartment is the impetus for meeting the boisterous, charming Tony who sticks up for his new friend. And, the make a pact of silence against their parents when Tony's Chilean seamstress mother "Leo" (a feisty Paulina Garcia of Gloria) reacts to changes against the agreement set by his late father (whom she knew well and ran the boutique shop beneath the living quarters) at behest of Jake's aunt.
In a short running time plenty of words and ideas flow into a cinematic equation which can be testy with heartache and candor, delivered well by Garcia. Even the crestfallen haggardness of Kinnear is felt, sliding into some difficult decisions that Sachs handles with subtle, perspicacious delicacy. It all wouldn't work without the beneficial, disparate turns by an unequivocal Taplitz and especially a theatrical Barbieri, who has a standout scene opposite an acting instructor. Little Men doesn't have any 'big surprises' in or about it, yet it harkens much humanity in it even if the drama and its circumstances don't always offer (like real life) the ideal impassioned crowd-pleasing conclusion.