Powered by naturalistic, unadorned performances and nuanced filmmaking, Little Men centers on Jake (Theo Taplitz), a 13-year-old who moves from Manhattan to Brooklyn with his parents (Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle) after his grandfather’s passing. Jake’s introspective nature (he’s budding artist) leads to very few friends. His fate takes a turn for the better after he befriends Tony (Michael Barbieri), the gregarious son of a dressmaker (Paulina Garcia) who owns a shop downstairs from Jake’s residence.
As with 2014’s subtle and evocative drama Love is Strange, writer/director Ira Sachs crafts a New York story that details the diverse men and women whose lives are deeply affected by gentrification. Moving to a new neighborhood or being displaced, at least from Sachs’ distinct point of view, can be a brutally exacting process.
Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, and Paulina Garcia all do solid work as the adults who inhabit Jake and Tony’s universe, but it’s the eye-opening and inspired performances from Taplitz and Barbieri which drive the film.
During a recent interview, Sachs talked about his decision to cast Taplitz. “He’s 13 now going into eighth grade but he’s already made 7 or 8 short films himself,” says Sachs. “He’s a very expressive kid. He also has an emotional intelligence which I think was the thing that I noticed from the first audition. He understands what’s going on and that’s great for both an actor and someone who wants to be a filmmaker.” To check out Taplitz’s own work as a filmmaker, go to this Indiewire piece.
Click on the clip below to hear Theo Taplitz discuss how working with Ira Sachs influenced him as an actor and budding filmmaker (one important piece of advice from Sachs is that “less is more”):
Little Men is now playing in select theaters.
I also discuss Little Men on CinemAddicts, a podcast I co-host with Anderson Cowan. Check out our review and discussion of the film below (my written piece is on Hollywood Outbreak):