As a coming of age film, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints does a pretty great job. As a film in every other consideration, there is something just quite not right. Everything seems like it should line up perfectly. There is a heartwarming true story by Dito Montiel which is acted out by some fantastic actors who fit the roles perfectly, but I was never impressed by the final product as much as I would have liked. This may be due to the fact that Montiel is not only stepping into the role of writer/director for the first time, but he is also telling his own coming-of-age tale. Aside from the personal attachment to the story, there are many other elements which can become difficult with a first time director. Considering all of these external factors, Montiel did a fantastic job. Somehow I was just left feeling as though there hadn’t been much of anything new in this mid-1980’s
coming of age story.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints begins with an adult Dito, played by an underused Robert Downey Jr., as a successful writer who hasn’t been home since he left years earlier. When he gets a phone call that his father is sick and refusing to go to the hospital, Dito returns home and must face his past. As he travels we witness the flashbacks of the time leading up to his departure from
In the 1980’s Dito (Shia LaBeouf) and his rag tag bunch of friends terrorize
the town in harmless fun. It is a rough neighborhood but they mostly stay out
of trouble, especially because of their toughest friend (Channing Tatum).
During his last summer in his home town Dito falls in love and watches two of
his friends die. When he leaves he cuts ties with his father (Chazz Palminteri)
and must return to finally resolve his past, including a visit to his first
love (Rosario Dawson).
If there is something missing from the film it certainly isn’t for lack of trying and this is obvious by the impressive special features on the DVD. There alternate opening and end sequences, although they don’t change the film in any way. They are great for comparing how the tone of the film might have changed, even though the story doesn’t have much room to change dramatically considering it is based on a true story. There is also a making-of documentary with plenty of the usual interviews from the stars, and a commentary track with Montiel and the editor of the film.