Ira Sachs, whose most recent films include “Love is Strange” and “Keep the Lights On,” has created another movie that plays with the audience’s heart.
“Little Men” is the story of two boys, Tony and Jake, growing up in New York City. Tony’s mother, Leonora, an immigrant, runs a store in a building owned by Jake’s family. The boys become fast friends when they meet, and share artistic ambitions. However, their parents quickly run into problems when it comes to Leonora’s store, placing a strain on Tony and Jake’s friendship.
While the two boys navigate growing up and getting through tricky situations, the viewer is sucked into the story, which will bring any adult back to their own coming-of-age struggles.
“What people will likely remember is these kids and what it reminds them of, friendships of their own life,” Sachs said. “When a film works, it’s about a very specific set of characters, but somehow it seems about a lot of other people as well.”
Blast Magazine writer Trea Lavery spoke to Sachs about the creation of “Little Men,” which is released tomorrow, August 5.
This movie is a lot different from films you’ve done before in that it focuses on the kids, as opposed to the adults. What was your experience with that like?
Well, I now have kids – I have two four-year-olds – and I’m interested in their experience in the world, and also mine as a parent. There’s a kind of generational interest in the shifting perspective of kids and adults. Also, I think I discovered cinema as a young person, and there was something about it that seemed to me able to capture the innocence and beauty of being young. Movies can do that better than anything, in some ways.
Tony and Jake are both very artistic children, although in different ways. Were you like that as well?
I was. I guess I was a combination, in the sense that I was a theatre kid, and in a way Tony’s world was one that I grew up in. I grew up in Memphis, and I was involved in the Memphis Children’s Theatre, and I have to say it was the last integrated community I was ever a part of, because when you’re kids, you cross over boundaries that adults refuse to, across class, sexuality, race. A lot of those scenes were sort of inspired by my own memories as a kid and among theatre kids. And I guess there’s a lot of Jake in me too, I think a certain sensitivity, but my husband, who’s a painter, was also an inspiration. I think what I basically do when I start working on a movie and I’m working very closely with Mauricio Zacharias, who’s my co-writer, we talk about movies, and we talk about life, and we talk about memories, and somehow, eventually end up with a story.
The title, “Little Men,” plays on the idea of the immaturity of the kids in contrast to the adults. How is that important to the story?
Well, I would say it also talks about the immaturity of the adults in the face of the children. So, it reverses, too. The poster of the film has a picture of all five of the central characters with the words “Little Men” because I think that they’re all trying to figure out how to be better versions of themselves. Particularly Brian, Greg Kinnear’s character, is in the wake of his father’s death trying to figure out how to be a man, which I think is complicated for adults to do. To me, there is this very violent conflict between the openness of childhood and the kind of conflicts of adult life, in that they run into each other. That is the drama of the story.
What message do you want the viewers of the film to get from it?
I want them to have a good time. I want them to feel, I want them to find some version of themselves in the characters they watch. I try to stay away from having a message, because in a way, I want to present life as it is, refracted, reflected through the story. You can think about a lot of things watching this film, but you don’t have to. You can also just watch the story. I think this is the kind of film that, if it works for people, it resonates afterwards, in terms of how they see it remind them of things in their own life, and in their own neighborhoods, maybe even more. You might notice that shop you never noticed before, walking down the street.