A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is a 2006 American film written, directed, and based on author and musician DitoMontiel's 2001 memoir of the same name. It his directorial debut and it describes his youth in Astoria, New York, during the 1980's. The film won numerous awards at the Sundance Film Festival of 2006 including Best Director and the Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast.
A Guide.. is a coming of age film based on the life of young DitoMontiel; the troubles he faced growing up in a neighbourhood gone all wrong. It is based on the people he knew. His father (played by ChazzPalminteri), who does not want him to go away to the big city and leave his family behind; his friends Antonio, Nerf, Giuseppe, and Mike two of whom look him up 15 years after he leaves his hometown to bring him back so that he can help his sick father. His girlfriend, Laurie, who always tries to get him to face reality as a man. Most of all it is about how these people around him changed him, made him the man he became.
The film is technically a marvel, switching between the present and flashbacks of the 1980's. The technique used in certain sequences are praiseworthy. Remembrance is often difficult, and there are sometimes numerous shots of the same scene, where the same words are spoken by the characters, acting for the mind of Dito who is trying to recall certain moments in his life which he cant remember perfectly. That added to the sights and sounds of a 1980's hood acts as a very sweet, clean rendition of Dito's life. The entire sequence where the characters talk to the viewers, saying whatever it is that is going through their minds, is a gem to look at, making a journey out of the film and into out own lives.
Robert Downey Jr. plays DitoMontiel and ShiaLabeouf plays his younger self. Both, honest to the character. The acting is overall very good; with Channing Tatum who plays the young Antonio, Dito's best friend through his younger years, who looks out for him and is trusted by his father; and Anthony DeSando, playing Frank, the gay dog-walker deserving special mention.
A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is a true memoir. Very honest. An honesty that shines through what it actually is; a film. The play of anger and words between Dito and his father are engrossing. One can relate to the points of view of each of the two. One trying to start a new life outside his neighborhood. away from the futility he faces everyday; the other wanting his son to stay at home, not leave behind his family to escape his own troubles, to bear with it, to fix it, in order to stay with his family and friends who care for him. There are numerous priceless moments in the film. The train rides Dito takes with his Irish friend Mike. The time he spent with his girlfriend Laurie (played by Melanie Diaz, and later by Rosario Dawson). The street-walking he enjoyed, and the gang-rivalry he faced with his friends (the priceless closing credits). Frank, the dog-walker with his obsession with Job from The Bible, and the the manner in which he tries to help Dito and Mike get out and in to the big city.
A Guide.. is a lesson, just like its name. It is a lesson in figuring out who the people in ones life truly matter. The name, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, instead of My. The film talks to you, teaches you things, making it beautiful. It is about love, family, loyalty, rivalry, friendship, knowing when to stay in, and when to get out, knowing who, in the end, you can trust. It is abandonment, and later going back, to realize the mistakes one made, the people who mattered. It is about coming of age, and realizing who one's real saints are.
One could stare out of a train window alone and watch the world flash past; or one could stare out of that same train window with someone, someone special, and talk about the world flashing past. Sometimes the only way forward, is back.