September 1, 2007

Sometimes the only way to move forward, is to go back.

Posted in Crime, Drama, Movies, Request-A-Review at 5:29 pm by inflickted

AGTRYSThe movie “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints,” like its title, is crafty, profound and at times unclear. This ode to the youth is from the writer and first time director Dito Montiel. The movie was loosely based on his autobiographical account of growing up in a multiethnic neighborhood where violence is the pulse beneath the skin, and eventually leaving everything for a better life.

This film is filled with emotional truths and improvised conversations. It is an imperfect creation of nostalgia and melancholy where the director had all the freedom he desired to remake a poignant story. It is so evocative of youth it makes you think you’ve been to this place and time before, even if you haven’t. This boldly flawed indie spouts attitude at every scene.

I must admit, I haven’t heard of Dito Montiel or his writing. So viewing the film was for me, a form of absorbing who he is and was even if the story did contain fiction. He got to fully release his creative passion into his first ever film. However, it is that same creativity that makes the film shaky and at times hard to follow. There are a few too many directorial “flourishes,” and the modern day segments get short revelations. Too often, just as we’re really becoming involved in the 1986 story, the movie pauses for 5 minutes to spend a little time with Robert Downey Jr. which completely sever the momentary emotion and connection. It’s a jarring stylistic tactic that takes the viewer out of the reality of the moment. Whenever we’re in flashback, we are treated to this all too real and at times shocking scenes that are beautifully acted by an energetic, fresh ensemble of talents.

The actors indeed, deliver vivid and lavishing performances especially from Shia LaBeouf (as young Dito) and Chazz Palminteri (as Dito’s Father). Shia is building quite a resume’ if I might add, and is shaping up to be the premier young actor and future leading man of his generation. The primary relationship in the film is between Dito and his father (their scenes were breathtaking!). Loving, brutal, bullying, unforgiving and tender, he’s the single reason Dito flees and the failed center-of-the-world to whom he returns. These few heartrending scenes of father and son (whether it be the young or adult Dito) make it worth the watch. Performances from Robert Downey (adult Dito), Rosario Dawson and Dianne West were too few and far apart to truly appreciate. Channing Tatum (Antonio) and the rest of the cast were unremarkable, but played their roles convincingly. But mostly, you feel like you’re eavesdropping on these characters because of the light script and unconventional editing.

The complexities of the story make this familiar premise of coming-of-age a whole lot more interesting. I see Dito’s father’s fondness of Antonio, yet show little adoration for his son. To his father, Antonio is his salvage project, and from his point of view, Dito doesn’t need saving, he’s already well loved. Dito’s scenes with his girl friend have some of that same magic. All we ever see them do is talk, but their conversations are almost stunningly sexy. It is the perfect depiction of what young love is — infatuation, jealously, fear, confusion and emotional connection. In other films of the genre, there is heroism to the escape. Here, it’s an act of betrayal and cowardice. And when he returns, there is no shortage of ghosts from his past to remind him that he has deserted those to whom he owed loyalty.

All in all, the film was good and is a brilliant debut to a talented writer/director, but not good enough to warrant box office success. This does not however change the fact that it deserves the attention and acclaim it received at the Sundance film festival. A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is a slow paced movie. It was intended to be such. The values are not well constructed but resounds emotion. That is another detail that I liked about the movie, it did not have the conventional emotional resolution you come to expect. It’s not that easy to mend a broken relationship. It does take a while to see the Saints that surround you everyday.

It gets an emotional 3.5 out of 5 or 70% infectious

This is a Review Request by Juice



  1. Juice said,

    Wow, this was very well written. You delivered it so perfectly. I agree to so much and would have given the same review as you, only you delivered it WAY better 🙂

    I’m gonna analyze this film in a bit okay, I’m about to go somewhere and I was just spending a minute in the my Google Reader haha.

  2. inflickted said,

    @Juice: I really wanted to do my best in writing this review since it was my first ever Review Request! Hehe! I really enjoyed the movie and writing this review. Sorry it took so long, I wanted to analyze the movie in the best of my abilities. 🙂

  3. shinjishinji said,

    ZOMG! I haven’t seen this yet. I’m gonna see this promise. Sabi lang nung kaibigan ko: Hindi ba weird na from Shia LaBeouf naging Robert Downy Jr. siya. Ewan ko, wala silang resemblance of some sort.

    Oo nga naman.

  4. Juice said,

    Our difference within the reviews you gave about this movie and with my thoughts are that I thought Channing Tatum did a remarkable job as Antonio and he and Dito pretty much complimented each other very well with their characters. I found Robert Downey’s characterization a bit weak and loose, but I guess that was the point of the movie, bringing the young Dito more focus as opposed to the real life one.

    The ending was a bit disappointing and left me wanting for more. The journey was good while watching it, but the end felt like it wasn’t worth it. Don’t you think?

  5. inflickted said,

    @Juice: Well, to be honest, I don’t like Channing Tatum. Hehe! He tries hard to be a “badass gangsta” in some of his roles but it almost always doesn’t work for me. But, like I said, he did a convincing job with his role.

    As for the ending, I think that was the point the director wanted to convey. The conclusion wasn’t an emotional resolution (where everybody gets along and loves each other) which usually defines most films in this genre. It was open ended and can’t be resolved instantly, as most deep seeded problems are.

  6. inflickted said,

    @Shinji: Haha! Your friend has a point! At first, it was awkward to think that Shia LaBeouf would look like Robert Downey in the future. However, Downey’s seemingly battered face gave good justification. All the stress, problems and pains the young Dito has been through, it would have been evident on his face.

  7. paolomendoza said,

    it’s interesting that you look at how people’s writing affect film.. haha! finally gotten the time to making my blog rounds.. I’d say this movie review thing is really your forte!

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