A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints – Review

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We’re in the tough neighbourhood of Astoria in 1986 Queens, New York, as teenaged Dito (Shia Labeouf) is struggling with his father (Chazz Palminteri), his trouble-making friends (including Scottish actor Martin Compston), his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz)…the usual…

Fifteen years later, we follow the adult Dito (Robert Downey Jr) – now a successful LA-based writer – as he returns to his home-town, to visit his ailing – but no more sympathetic – father.

During his stay, he does his best to reconnect with the family and friends he left behind, all those years ago.


The two words that spring to mind are pretentious and unoriginal.

We’ve seen so many other films about this period – and this place – and so many other coming of age movies set here too.

That it is based on the formative years of the writer-director himself – the lead character even shares his name – makes it feel like the guy’s sense of self-importance is just bursting out onto the screen.

The problem is that his early life wasn’t particularly unusual or interesting. So he didn’t get on with his father and his relationships were a little messed up – those traits could describe the teenage years of almost anyone you meet. It’s not even that unusual for one of your crowd to get in trouble with the police.

Had it been a fiction, or at least based on rather than his actual real-life story, Montiel could have embellished his characters and situations to make them stand out from the crowd more.

The movie is perfectly well made and the performances – particularly Shia Labeouf and Melonie Diaz as the teenagers and Robert Downey Jr and Rosario Dawson as their adult incarnations – are as good as you’d expect – but the tired and predictable subject matter stops this rising above the many similar films.