A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
- Paul Dale
- 27 February 2007
First time filmmaker and writer Dito Montiel’s vivid, inventive and energetic adaptation of his own allegedly true biographic novel may be the most self-indulgent and wilfully engaging US film of the year.
The film is based around two narratives, the first focusing on the young Dito (Shia LaBeouf) making his way through the poverty stricken Astoria district of New York in the 1980s, while the second has an older Dito (Robert Downey Jr) returning to his old stomping ground years later.
Montiel’s factually liberal (many of the details in the book are changed here) film is a ragbag of styles and subjectivisms. Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Terence Davies’ Distant Voices Still Lives and the music of Lou Reed are all touchstones here but he is definitely following his own kinetic vision. In the midst of the madness Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Channing Tatum and Martin Compston, amongst a large ensemble cast, are given astonishingly free reign to do their finest work in years, while LeBeouf and Downey Jr are both powerful enough actors in their own right to hold the point of focus in both sections. This litter strewn, untidy film about fathers and sons, the wisdom of mothers, guilt, escape and return and the incremental daily abuses of communal poverty can be pat and a little gauche in places but it is never dull. Recommended.