Willem (Leo) van der Zanden’s review published on Letterboxd:
Honest. Relatable. True.
Those three words exactly describe my experience with Ira Sachs’ new film Little Men. As I already hoped and expected the story about two young friends, had a plot as loose as anything. Just like with Sachs’ last film Love is Strange, the driving aspect of the film was the portrayal of relations between the characters and with that, fortunately, enough was already happening. Though at first there doesn’t seem to be that much going on in the lives of the two young leads Jake and Tony (played by Theo Taplitz & Michael Barbieri respectively). They go to school, they have their dreams, they roam around the city and live their lives like any couple of friends. But underneath it something is brewing; things the two friends don’t immediately notice, but we, the all seeing audience do. Something is about to pull these friends apart to show the reality of friendship; it’s true meaning. Because friendship, in the end, isn’t highly philosophical meanderings and lengthy monologues. It is a simple yet meaningful outburst at the time when it is most needed.
The little bit of plot that surrounds these otherwise plotless lives mostly has to do with money problems in both of the boys respective families. I don’t think I have to say more than that. You can basically figure out yourself where such a setup may lead and spoiling it wouldn’t even hurt it, because with a film like this, you shouldn’t be watching for the plot. You should be watching for the truth. The unbelievable truth of these simple, yet complex, yet darn interesting common people trying to get through with their lives. And in the center you find the most innocent heart a film could ever have, two boys and their friendship.
This is mainly where the beauty of this film lies, it keeps the audience informed with the “impending doom” and leaves its main characters be. This strangely enough feels eerily similar to my own life. I’m not saying my parents have ever had huge money troubles, but I can remember having relationships like these, I can remember the life without worries that was sometimes slowly and sometimes with enormous bangs coming to an end and by God, when at a certain point the truth comes up, one of the two boys breaks down and that is just how I would turn into tears. That crying-scene, delivered by such a young actor shows so much promise. Even though the two young actors have their little missteps here and there, their overall portrayal is one to remember. Once again it is filled with pure honesty, it’s like Sachs just let them be the kids they actually are.
Ira Sachs shows once again that you don’t need buckets full of unnecessary drama, you can find it in the simplest little things. You can look at your own house, your own family and find the most awe-inspiring, universally accessible tales ever imagined.
Kudos to you, Mr. Sachs.