Little Men (2016)
Both an affecting, astutely sketched portrait of adolescent friendship as it is one of New York’s gentrification, Ira Sach’s Little Men refines his knack for crafting small, quiet, and quite lovely, character-focused dramas that favour subtle eddies of emotion in place of big swinging histrionics. As two 13-year-old besties caught in the middle of a property conflict between their parents, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri give wonderfully naturalistic performances, with Barbieri particularly stealing his scenes with a confident swagger reminiscent of a young De Niro or Pacino. They’re aided by Sach’s sensitive writing, which infuses the complex, irrevocable scenario with nuance and feeling that refuse to reach for neat resolutions. Little Men is a patient, low-key study of how youthful bonds build, strengthen and fray under the pressure of difficult adult decisions. A perfect anti-blockbuster tonic.