The Brooklyn projects setting of this sweltering survival story is nothing if not bleak. Ethan Dizon turns out a breakthrough performance as well as the rest of the cast. Set during a sweltering summer in New York City, our two kids, already sadly firmly amid the drug and guns culture of the Brooklyn projects, are forced to fend for themselves as Mister’s mother Gloria slides down the junkie slope of no return. Shot in a mere 25 days and on an eyewateringly tight budget, ‘The inevitable defeat of Mister and Pete’ is hugely touching and beautifully observed film, which highlights how fractious relationships between parents and children can be, and the sad impermanence of human loyalty.
Pete is precious, fragile and full of secrets that ultimately reveal him to be far more complex than he initially appears. Starburys script does a little to far out of its way to wrap up all the loose ends. A little ambiguity at the end of the film might have been more effective. Fortunately these small missteps cant stand in the way of the films overwhelming positives. Its easily the best and most accessible film director George Tillman Jr. There were a few moments that seemed to really reach for a reaction from the viewers, testing the boundaries of what you know and understand about inner city youth. Watching these things unfold incites an inner conflict of whether or not these events are completely outlandish or if you’ve been really sheltered from the dangerous and volatile environments that exist for those living below the poverty line.
Despite the unusual brotherly-bond that grows between Mister and Pete, this film is ridden with tragedy and hardship and truly quite difficult to watch. However, this pair knock it out of the park – mature beyond their years. Trust and forgiveness are essential to Mister’s journey, as he gradually learns to reach out to other people, instead of always suffering alone. In so doing, he makes the important discovery that he is not the only one with problems; nor, in fact, is his life any more difficult or unfair than those of the other people around him. Though life for Mister and Pete is never easy, things noticeably improve once Mister stops regarding everyone he encounters with suspicion and disdain, realising that even the grown-ups he knows are every bit as lost and fragile as he is, a major part of the coming-of-age process to which every one of us can relate.
So what did I think? Well it is certainly the best movie of the fall season, that is for sure. And with an upcoming interview from Ethan Dizon himself next month in the Creative Spotlight, we are even more intrigued how this whole thing came together. Ultimately, though, what really made this film for me was Michael Starburry’s powerful and intelligent script, and its all-round fantastic cast. This is an absolute gem of a film, that I’d highly recommend. But, despite Tillman’s mainstream profile, expect this to skew closer to the likes of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s similar ‘Nobody Knows’, rather than the broad appeal of, say, ‘Home Alone’.