NZ International Film Festival review: Little Men

Little Men has also played at the Sundance, Berlin and San Francisco film festivals
Little Men has also played at the Sundance, Berlin and San Francisco film festivals

Ira Sachs returns to the NZ International Film Festival with another delicate observation on life in New York City.

Like his previous outing Love is Strange, Little Men is driven by the quintessential obsessions of all New Yorkers: gentrification and the cost of rent.

But this time, Sachs' subjects are at the opposite stage in life - 13-year-olds Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri).

The boys, barely adolescents, are trying to carve out their own place in a world where it seems the adults are the ones who need to be taught a thing or two.

Jake's parents (Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle) inherit Tony's mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia) as a tenant at the same time the boys are becoming firm friends.

The inevitable awkwardness over dealing with money threatens to destroy the relationship either between the two boys, or between each of them and their parents - and the teens will be damned if it's going to be the former.

Little Men displays the same tenderness and perceptiveness about relationships and the human condition we've come to love from Sachs' work.

It has lovely pacing - sometimes the audience is kept several steps behind, but the process of discovery is easy and satisfying, reminding us we're outsiders, privileged observers who should treat the characters with respect.

Taplitz and Barbieri's mature performances outshine the adults and easily anchor the film with believable characters to become invested in.

Simply but beautifully shot, and not overacted or overwritten, Little Men feels intimate and compelling, but also very natural and real.

The only thing I wasn't a fan of was the twist revealed in the very last scene. Without giving it away, it was poignant and had been alluded to at other points in the film, but really seemed like it needed further exploration than was possible.

Or perhaps it was Sachs' way of saying that such surprises are really just another facet of life to be accepted for what they are.

Four stars.

This film is playing as part of the 2016 New Zealand International Film Festival.

     Little Men:: Director: Ira Sachs:: Starring: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina García, Michael Barbieri, Theo Taplitz:: Rating: PG - Adult themes:: Running Time: 85

Reviewed by Kim Choe/Newshub.

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