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Little Men, the latest cinematic slice of life from filmmaker Ira Sachs, is a modest and engaging parable of friendship and loss, told in a low-key fashion that is believable, credible and heart-tugging throughout.

The story focuses on two youngsters Jake and Tony, and acts as an introductory showcase for the appealing young actors who respectively play them, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri. Jake and his parents (Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle) have just moved into the apartment upstairs from the dress shop run by Tony’s mother (Paulina Garcia), following the death of Jake’s grandfather.

Jake and Tony become instant best friends, but a cloud looms overhead when Jake’s parents want to raise the rent on the dress shop. The stalemate between his parents and Tony’s mother drives a wedge between the adults, and threatens to do likewise for the boys.

Happily, the film never slides into soap-opera territory. The dilemmas facing its characters, regardless of age, are perceptively played out by a sincere cast, with Kinnear and Ehle (born in Winston- Salem) in fine, sympathetic. Garcia plays her character a little more taciturn, a little closer to the vest. She doesn’t go out of her way to mine audience sympathy, yet her disillusionment is palpable. Alfred Molina, as a family friend, has little to do but

it’s nice having him around in any case.

Much as cinematographer Oscar Duran nicely captures the Brooklyn neighborhood where the story takes place, Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias’ screenplay nicely captures the adolescent point-of-view of Jake and Tony, as well as the conflict between their parents. Little Men is as much a coming-of-age for them as the boys, replete with its pain and regret.

Little Men opens Friday !

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