Least Among Saints
Distributed By: Brainstorm Media
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I love watching independent films. There's some really good stuff out there that doesn't get enough attention because the films aren't produced by huge labels like Paramount or MGM or Disney. I used to watch IFC, the Independent Film Channel, all the time until the channel changed its format. So when I received an opportunity to check out Least Among Saints, a 2012 indie movie starring the writer and director of the film, I jumped at the chance.
In Least Among Saints, we are introduced to Anthony Hayward (Martin Papazian), a former Marine who has returned from his time abroad (presumably in Afghanistan) to his life in Arizona. Suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome thanks to things he witnessed and did while in the military, Anthony has destroyed his home life. Recently divorced with an order of protection against him for stalking his ex-wife, Anthony sinks deeper and deeper into depression, drinking and picking fights with people and carrying on in self-destructive behavior, looking for a way to end his misery.
After one such drink-induced bout with the law, Anthony comes to the aide of his next door neighbor Cheryl (A.J. Cook), who he witnesses getting roughed up by her drug dealer. Witnessing the rescue and wondering about his eccentric neighbor, Cheryl's son Wade (Tristen Lake Leabu) takes more of an interest in Anthony, watching him from afar and trying to decide if he is one of the good guys.
His questions are answered when he finds his mother unresponsive in their living room. Anthony responds to Wade's cries for help, bringing Cheryl to the hospital, but it's too late. Now Wade faces a life of foster care if Anthony can't find a way to prove to his social worker (Laura San Giacomo) why Wade's best interests lie with him.
The character of Anthony is suffering...so much so that he is close to ending his life. Though he has suffered much loss - loss in all he believed in, loss in respect for who he was, loss in trust of his own instincts and more - he refuses help from anyone. Anthony refuses to admit he has a serious problem...until Wade comes into the picture.
Wade is also suffering. He's gone through too much in his young life, making him grow up fast, but also causing him to become angry at the world. His anger is equal to that of Anthony's and, like Anthony, he lashes out at people who care about him because he doesn't know any other way of expressing his emotions.
It takes a traumatic incident...one in which Anthony finally hits rock bottom...for Anthony to realize he needs help. Anthony realizes that he has to get his own life together before he can be truly responsible for anyone else's.
There's some real emotional drama to be found in Least Among Saints, actually eliciting a tear or two from me. That's what makes Laura San Giacomo's frazzled, smart-mouth character so important - it offers up some comic relief in the midst of extreme drama. What I liked about Least Among Saints is that, because the movie was independent, it was low budget. There was no glitz or special effects or anything else to distract the viewer from the emotional distress suffered by the main characters in this film. And the characters were likable - you rooted for Anthony to get his act together, help Wade and maybe get back the girl he lost.
Least Among Saints wasn't popular among many critics when it was first released. I'm not sure what they were looking for with this film. Sure, it isn't a tremendous masterpiece. It wasn't going to win an Academy Award or anything. There are some awkward silences in the film...scenes that dragged a little bit. That being said, I still found Least Among Saints to be a poignant piece and an enjoyable film to watch. There's a simplicity there that helps viewers relate to the characters in the story and the story itself without all of the Hollywood distractions. There is a valuable lesson taught about reaching out to those in need of a hand, despite how many times that hand might be pushed away. It also teaches us that there is no shame in needing or asking for that help. It's also a film about second chances. In my opinion, that makes Least Among Saints a valuable, uplifting drama well-worth watching.