“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
October 13, 2006

A film adaptation of Dito Montiel’s memoir of the same name, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a compelling, thoughtful movie based on Montiel’s childhood growing up in 1980s Queens.

A writer and director who understands his limitations, Montiel wisely left the acting to the pros.

Shia LaBeouf (Holes) plays him during his adolescence, while Robert Downey Jr. (Good Night, and Good Luck, Wonder Boys) portrays the grown-up Dito. Never mind that there is absolutely no physical resemblance between the two actors; LaBeouf and Downey are so convincing in their roles it doesn’t matter.

Switching effortlessly from present day (where Dito is a successful author) to the past (where he is a tough little kid trying to figure out if there is life beyond New York), A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints tackles Dito’s complicated relationship with his parents (Chazz Palminteri and Dianne Wiest), as well as the friends he left behind.

Eric Roberts is magnificent in a small role as one of Dito’s tough, childhood buddies. His powerful performance makes viewers remember there was a time when Roberts was better known for his acting skills than for being Julia’s big brother.

Montiel–a first-time filmmaker–won the Director’s Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival for his autobiographical movie. Raw, gritty, and honest, Saints makes a strong impact and leaves the viewer curious as to how the rest of Montiel’s life will work out.

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