A coming-of-age drama about writer/director Dito Montiel's youth, the film captures the mid-1980's in the toughest neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Dito (Robert Downey Jr.) called home after 15 years because his father (Ch... more »azz Palminteri) is ill, encounters old friends - the ones he lost, the ones he left behind, the ones he can't help but remember. These are Dito's saints. An honest account of a bittersweet return to a neighborhood where relationships can never be what they once were, Dito's story is about to come to terms with a father's rage and a father's love.« less
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 10/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Recalling your childhood can be a slippery slope: you can choose to glaze over the bad and present an imaginary world in which very little is based on reality or you can choose to tell it like it is or was. Whether or not Dito Monteil scrimps on the bad in his film of his autobiography, "A Guide to Recognize Your Saints" is very doubtful because this film is at turns brutal, violent, emotionally poignant and difficult and many scenes are so truthful that they are almost impossible to watch. There is also much beauty here: scenes of Love: Dito (a truly amazing Shia LeBeouf in a career making performance) and his father (the great Chazz Palminteri) in the bathroom after Dito's friend is killed, a grown up Dito (Robert Downey Jr.) and his mother (a tragic, loving, disappointed Dianne Wiest) on the porch stoop discussing Dito's friend Antonio (a terrific Channing Tatum )...these scenes form the emotional center of the film around which all the others rotate and draw strength from. "AGTRYS" is ultimately a story of friendship among 5 boys (Dito, Antonio, Mike, Joey and Nerf): all desperately poor, all full of pride and bravado and all full of emotional and sexual fire with very few ways to diffuse and direct it. Dito Monteil has created a thoughtful, emotional and heartfelt film, a memoir really, about his childhood and the people that were most important to him at that time. It truly is about the everyday Saints and Angels that people our lives and because it is set in a slum in no way diminishes its beauty and grandeur. "
Awkward + tense + ... = perfectly exquisite
e. liza | california | 01/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" at the 2006 Sundance festival and I was blown away. If it's rough and imperfect, it's successfully so; its quirks complement the youthfully wild and tragic themes of this artfully presented memoir. Part of what made the film for me was Dito Montiel's apparent sense of humor in dealing with his past. "AGTRYS" is an infusion of sex, tragedy, violence, and uplifting spirit. I left the theatre feeling great and I've been searching desperately for the DVD ever since. Try it!"
Once more with feeling . . .
Ronald Scheer | Los Angeles | 03/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This well-made film has galvanizing performances by a young, energetic cast and some wonderful turns by veteran performers, Dianne Wiest and Chazz Palminteri (plus a cameo by Eric Roberts). The cinematography and editing create a constantly kinetic and agitated style of storytelling. The viewer is propelled between past and present, as the central character, Dito, lives and relives the experience of being a teenager 25 years ago on the mean streets of Queens. Based on the memoir of Dito Montiel (who also wrote and directed), the film covers ground we have seen in many other films: coming of age in a working class Italian-American neighborhood, where street talk is rough, violence is everywhere (both in and out of the home), and just getting through childhood alive is a major achievement.
Some viewers may wonder whether Robert Downey, Jr., is the right fit for the role he plays, but if you're a fan, you won't mind his portrayal of a perplexed and troubled man thrust into the position of making amends with a dying father who seems to have loved another man's son more deeply than his own. The DVD has a commentary by the director, an informative making-of featurette including interviews with cast members and the director, plus other material."
To Quote the Director: "a whole movie about people saying no
Connoisseur Rat | 03/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Let me start by saying I didn't have any trouble with the coarse language or the incessant contentiousness of the characters. Nor did I have many problems with the sound-delayed presentation of the overlapping lines of dialog, or the "artsy" closed caption-style graphics, or the blacked out scenes or any of the bold, impressionistic choices that director Dito Montiel makes in this allegedly (but not really) autobiographical tale. After all, Dito comes from the hardcore/punk scene, so it's no surprise that he chooses to push the envelope and intentionally agitate his viewers. And I prefer directors to take chances and fail rather than take no chances at all.
The main gripe I have about the film is, though it was very well acted, the writing and the story never make it clear just what Dito's father Monty (Chazz Palminteri) or Dito himself (Shia LaBeouf) see in the troubled and abrasive Antonio (Channing Tatum) character. I understand that Dito might have been just looking up to an older peer, regardless of how unruly or unpleasant he was (or the reasons behind his unpleasantness), but I just couldn't figure out why Monty would in many ways seem to choose Antonio over his own son, Dito. And since these relationships are at the heart of the film, this is a rather major flaw, in my eyes.
The film does make a great case as to why they SHOULDN'T hold Antonio in any esteem, however. Dianne Wiest (in a superb performance as Flori, Dito's mom) is constantly advocating a cautionary approach to Antonio. And when Scottish pal Mike O'Shea (played by the excellent Martin Compston - check out his standout performance in "Sweet Sixteen" if you like him here) says of Antonio, "The guy's a f---in' dick, Dito. It's because of him you're f---ed up," well - I couldn't agree more!
Anyway, I listened to the entire commentary, done by writer/director Montiel himself along with his editor, searching for clues about this character dynamic. And all I really got from the commentary about the story was that Dito (the director) has one thesis statement for this film: "This is a whole movie about people saying nothing, going nowhere." Oh, and he and the editor purposely edited out all the funny parts. Plus Dito admits that the young actors look nothing like the actors who are playing their older selves. Great - thanks for enhancing my viewing experience.
In addition, I think this movie gets too much credit/slack for being an autobiography, when in fact there is a lot of truth-bending (if not breaking) going on here. I don't want to reveal too much, but the fates of both Antonio and his brother Giuseppe are greatly exaggerated in the film. And Nerf takes a completely different course in real life. Which would be fine in a work of fiction, but I think too much value is placed on this film being a true-life memoir, when in fact it is constantly veering into James Frey territory.
To summarize, though the acting is terrific (Dianne Wiest and Rosario Dawson are especially entrancing) and the directing is somewhat fresh and innovative, the story itself ultimately left me cold. And the fact that it's not even truly autobiographical makes it even less remarkable. I'd like to give this film 2.5 stars (an average rating, not a negative one), but the Amazonian star system demands whole integers, so I'll round up to three because I admire Dito's moxie as much as I do his movie.
The DVD itself has some pretty good features: there's a 20 minute "making of" featurette consisting of many interviews with the cast and producer Trudy Styler (aka Mrs. Sting). There's one alternate opening and four alternate endings (both with and without commentary) and a bunch of deleted scenes (again, with or without commentary). There's also the 6 minute "rooftop scene," made by Dito whilst training at Sundance Labs. But if you don't like the movie itself, odds are you won't have too much interest in the features. I say, despite its high Amazon rating, approach this film with caution and maybe rent before you decide to buy. [...]"
A Guide To One Of 2006's Best Film's
Andreas Ignatiou | new york, NY | 03/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is truly affecting in a very unconventional way. The story follows Dito (played with electrifying realism by Shia LaBoeuf as young Dito and Robert Downey Jr. as older Dito), growing up in the Astoria part of Queens. When one of his closest friends ends up dying in front of him, he flees his life in Queens for something more. Twenty years later, his father (Palminterri) is sick and Dito comes home to take him to the hospital. When Dito left, he virtually killed the relationship between him and his father. Chazz Palminterri hasn't been this good in years. The young cast featuring "Step Up" star Channing Tatum as Dito's friend Antonio and Melonie Diaz of "Raising Victor Vargas" are a match for their older counterparts played by Hollywood A-listers, this case Eric Roberts and Rosario Dawson. This film has the strongest emotional impact of any recent film, partly because of director Montiel's unconventional style, which uses subtitles in unexpected places and brilliantly avoids all biopic clichés. This is a respectable feat alone. It's worth seeing if only for the pure raw energy that hasn't been felt this vividly in any film of this kind since Scorsese's masterpiece "Mean Streets". Make no mistake, despite the excellent group of stars this film is very much about the excellent young actors. It is worth whatever Amazon may be charging for it. Excellent and emotional."