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Little Men

Gentrification threatens the friendship of two boys in Ira Sachs’ latest drama

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Filmmaker Ira Sachs specializes in small-scale dramas, where key interactions are quietly observed and the emotional punches don’t explode off the screen so much as stick in your craw long after the film is over. There was the May-December marriage in Forty Shades of Blue, the romantic break-up in Keep the Lights On and 2014’s death-by-gentrification heartbreaker, Love Is Strange. Sachs returns to the catalyst of New York City gentrification in his latest, a coming-of-age story in which two 13-year-old boys shoulder the heaviest emotional burdens.

Shy Jake (Theo Taplitz) meets the outgoing Tony (Michael Barbieri) when Jake’s parents relocate from Manhattan to an up-and-coming part of Brooklyn; Jake’s dad (Greg Kinnear) has inherited a storefront and the apartment above it. Tony’s mom, a Chilean immigrant portrayed by Paulina Garcia (Gloria), runs a dress boutique in the storefront, and initially all is well. The boys strike up a real friendship — wonderfully depicted in everyday scenes of how not-very-articulate boys manage to form real bonds — and dream of attending the same high school. But this is 21st-century New York, and everybody is scrambling: The rent has to be raised in the dress shop, whatever the repercussions. It plays out as bittersweetly as you’d expect: Nobody really wins. But Sachs recognizes the ordinary yet profound ways that life moves forward, and that even painful steps yield forms of progress.


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