Developing friendship gets smothered in melodrama
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, October 12, 2012
“Least Among Saints” hits all the notes you’d expect for a film -- or at least a cliched one -- about a traumatized Iraq War veteran. Its hero, Anthony, played by writer-director Martin Papazian with more earnestness than subtlety, is a divorced, unemployed, suicidal alcoholic with nightmares, impulse-control issues and the shakes.
Still, he’s not a bad guy at heart.
We discover this when Anthony -- who up until then has seemed barely capable of taking care of his dog -- more or less inherits the troubled 10-year-old boy living next door, Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu), after the kid’s single mom (A.J. Cook) dies of a drug overdose.
It’s all a wee bit much.
Still, Papazian and Leabu have a genuine ease with each other, which shows in their characters’ friendship. The development of the relationship between these two broken individuals -- not quite peers, not quite father-and-son -- is enjoyable to watch. Okay, maybe not enjoyable, but sweetly, convincingly cracked. A scene in which Anthony eggs on Wade, who has been getting bullied at school, into beating up his tormentor may be a terrible example to set, but it’s actually kind of funny. It rings true.
It does, at least, until Papazian smothers it with yet another helping of melodrama. The film just keeps ladling on the sauce when the dish is savory enough.
Most incomprehensibly, Anthony is initially given temporary custody of Wade by the newly orphaned boy’s caseworker (a sour-looking Laura San Giacomo). The two misfits go AWOL in search of Wade’s missing birth father. It should be noted that no grown-up, Anthony included, believes that the father can be located.
Nevertheless, away the two of them go on a road trip featuring male bonding and roadside rifle lessons.
This latter development leads to a tragedy that’s meant to be cathartic, for Wade as well as Anthony, who, according to the film’s flashbacks, is plagued by memories of a wartime shooting gone awry.
Unfortunately, the episode’s extreme mawkishness is likely to produce more consternation than closure. In the simple affection between these two fractured souls, “Least Among Saints” has a good thing going, but it doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone.
Contains obscenity, some violence and brief sexually suggestive dialogue.