A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)

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Dito, a writer in L.A., goes home to Astoria, Queens, after a 15-year absence when his mother calls to say his father's ill. In a series of flashbacks we see the young Dito, his parents, his four closest friends, and his girl Laurie, as each tries to navigate family, race, loyalty, sex, coming of age, violence, and wanting out. A ball falls onto the subway tracks at a station, small things get out of hand. Can Dito go home again?

Writer Dito Montiel's highly cinematic memoir of his childhood in Queens, New York, makes the leap to the big screen, with the author himself getting behind the camera to helm this powerful, and at times gut-wrenching, adaptation. The film flits back and forth between the adult Montiel's (Robert Downey Jr.) emotional return to the neighborhood after a 15-year gap, and the childhood antics that led to his younger self (played by Shia LeBouf) fleeing to Los Angeles in 1986. Downey's older brother Montiel is an introspective, quietly successful author who comes home after he is informed of his father's (Chazz Palmin...
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teri) life-threatening illness. LeBouf's teenage Montiel is a young tearaway who runs into constant trouble with his gang of friends, falls in love with local looker Laurie (Rosario Dawson), and dreams of an escape from the city with his Scottish friend, Mike (Martin Compston).

The balance of the film tilts in favor of the kids, with most of the action taking place in 1986. These scenes acutely capture the punishing heat of the New York City summer, with the teenage gang soaked in sweat and dirt as they trample through their crumbling Queens ghetto. Channing Tatum gives a terrifying performance as Montiel's violent young friend, Antonio, and Palminteri is equally intimidating, filling the screen with palpable rage as he barks at the older and younger versions of his son. The skittish narrative makes frequent lurches through the decades, and also sees characters frequently breaking the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience, recalling the work of writer-director team Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 GRAMS, AMORES PERROS). Montiel couples this with the gritty stylistic verve of classic New York movies such as MEAN STREETS and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, ultimately transforming SAINTS into the perfect distillation of two separate eras in an ever-evolving city.
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The harsh realities of life on the street merge with the universal themes of youthful pain and exhilaration in director Dito Montiel's telling tale of one boy's struggle to escape the grim fate that awaits his aimless, trouble-minded peers. For most of Montiel's friends, the only means of escaping their bleak surroundings were drugs, prison, or death. In breaking the cycle and making a name for himself as a filmmaker, Montiel showed that there are ways to overcome the urban malaise that consumed the majority of his friends. He couldn't have done it alone, though, and with this film Montiel pays tribute to those h...
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e left behind by bringing their story to the screen so that their struggles may give others in similar situations the courage to pursue a more positive, creative means of overcoming their anger.
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This is the story of a pivotal summer on the hot, sweaty, violent streets of Astoria, Queens--a summer that changed only Dito Montiel, but the lives of everyone around him. Torn between is ill father, his domineering friend and protector Antonio, the neighborhood war and the lustful temptations of youth, Dito struggles against his desire to escape, running away from everything he knows. He finds redemption 15 years later when he returns to Queens and faces the "saints" who have influenced his life.

Na een afwezigheid van bijna twintig jaar keert Dito (Robert Downey jr.), inmiddels een succesvol schrijver in L.A., terug naar Queens, een arbeiderswijk in New York waar hij opgroeide, om nog eenmaal zijn ernstig zieke vader te zien. Daar wordt hij geconfronteerd met de mensen die hij achterliet.

Critic Consensus :A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a lively, powerful coming-of-age tale with winning performances and sharp direction from first-timer Dito Montiel.

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