Bottom of the Queue is a feature in which we uncover hidden gems, maybe sitting at the bottom of your Netflix queue, that deserve a chance.
This Bottom of the Queue movie, like the last one I did, co-stars Robert Downey Jr. I promise they won’t all star him. Okay, I can’t promise that. But I promise I will never feature The Shaggy Dog.
The under-appreciated film is A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, released in 2006. It won some Sundance Film Festival awards, but didn’t get much praise or notice beyond that, which is sad because it’s an amazing film that deserved more recognition.
Based on his autobiographical memoir, director Dito Montiel tells the story of growing up in 1986 Astoria, Queens. Dito, played by Shia LaBeouf, lives with his mother and father in a rough neighborhood filled with sex, drugs, and violence. His father (Chazz Palminteri) can’t deal with the thought of his son ever leaving, but at the same time seems to prefer Dito’s best friend, played by Channing Tatum.
Dito is a sensitive, intuitive kid who knows there’s nothing there for anyone but jail or death and he struggles between his desire to stay close to that which he knows – his family and friends – and his need to get as far away as he can before he too is sucked into the abyss of the neighborhood gangs. His father tells him he’ll never leave, but Dito eventually does get out, moves to California, and becomes a writer. The movie shuffles back and forth between teenage Dito and present day Dito, played by Robert Downey Jr., who has come home after 20 years to see his dying father. All the memories of his past come back to him and he’s haunted by all the people he’s loved, lost, and left behind.This movie is raw and emotional. It has that underlying sadness that comes from a situation where you know many people won’t make it out alive. In fact, Downey narrates at the beginning of the film that some of the people we meet in the movie will die before it’s over, and the idea that time heals all wounds is a lie. This movie is touching and beautifuly done. It’s especially amazing that this was done by a first-time director.
Say what you want about Shia LaBeouf, but this is honestly some of his best acting. Robert Downey Jr. isn’t given much to work with, as it takes place mostly in the past, but he’s excellent with what he has. Channing Tatum and Chazz Palminteri shine as well. I’ll admit I might eventually steer you astray in the Bottom of the Queue feature – in fact, I guarantee it will happen eventually – but this is not one of those times. This movie is great.
And also, Channing Tatum doesn’t keep his shirt on and sometimes that’s all you need to know about a movie.
Check out the trailer: