‘Little Men’ shows love, friendship in time of gentrification

Ira Sachs’s third film captures an essence of sincerity that only someone from New York City could capture. “Little Men” begins with Brian (Greg Kinnear), a struggling actor who inherits his father’s Brooklyn home that houses a small boutique store on the first floor. The store is a dress shop that is run by Lenor (Paulina García), who was close to Brian’s father and had not seen a rent increase since she first opened shop. Brian moves his family into the home as the area is steadily becoming gentrified. Due to financial hardship, Brian is forced to increase Lenor’s rent three times what she was originally paying.

The heart of the film lies in the friendship formed between the families’ sons, Tony and Jake, played by newcomers Michael Barbieri and Theo Taplitz. The two boys complement each other the way soul mates might in a romance film, as pre-adolescent friendships lend themselves to love not bound by romance.

In the center of the film is a love that got away, as most of us can recall a childhood friend with whom we’ve lost contact along the way to adulthood. The cause of this lost contact in “Little Men” is gentrification and the economic stress it brings to both: those trying to adapt to it and those fighting against it. Throughout the film, Sachs’s cinematographer, Óscar Durán, beautifully captures how the Manhattan skyline dominates the backdrop, a force to be reckoned with that literally leaks over into Brooklyn.

Barbieri and Taplitz carry the film with ease and tenderness, managing to stay on par with (if not surpassing) the masterclass acting that both Kinnear and García bring to the screen. Sachs is subtle with drama, and while the outcome is inevitable, it still strikes the audience deeply as it follows the love and bond the two boys come to form.

“Little Men” is a fresh of breath air in an exhausting summer of films about superheroes and aliens destroying earth. The drama and conflict in this film resonate more profoundly and effectively than in other films. Sachs brings us back to a time where movies were simply about life, as “Little Men” is about a love that doesn’t end with two people kissing in the rain. It’s a film where the almighty deus ex machina is nowhere present, although the audience begins to hope it will show up to change the path the story is headed toward simply because Sachs has gotten us invested in the characters and outcomes of the story.

“Little Men” played at the University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema for a limited run that ends on Tuesday. Students can find the Cosford in the Dooley Memorial building, and the theater regularly showcases these small, intimate films that audiences wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to watch on the big screen. The Cosford also shows special advance screenings and free screenings of past blockbusters like “Captain America: Civil War” in partnership with the student-led Cinematic Arts Commission. It is also home to the annual Canes Film Festival that happens in the spring.

If you go: The last screening of “Little Men” at the Cosford is Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. UM students are admitted for free with their Cane Card. Tickets are $8 for UM alumni, employees and non-UM students. You can also catch “Little Men” at the O Cinema Miami Beach at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday for $11.

This story was updated on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 12:10 p.m. to clarify admission prices for UM students. 

Feature image courtesy Pixabay user annca