It's not often indie dramas can compel and pull off a story so steeped in melodrama without being a cloying sickening glorified TV movie. Thankfully, Martin Papazian's drama about two mentally unstable outcasts finding one another in the sadness manages to be a fantastic bittersweet drama filled with rich performances all around. Director Papazian manages to bring the film down to a level that doesn't try for sap and sugary sweet, and keeps its characters grounded enough to where their conflicts and dilemmas feel realistic and warrant audiences empathies.
Papazian stars as Anthony Hayward, a marine released from active duty who is struggling to adjust with his post traumatic stress, while also confronting a divorce, and an ex-wife who wants nothing to do with him. When he moves next door to a troubled woman and her young son Wade, he forms a bond with the pair instantly. When Wade's mom commits suicide, Anthony is tasked with caring for Wade, and eventually learns how to topple his own selfish desires in exchange for caring for someone else. Despite every ability for the writer and director Papazian to dive in to numbing cliches, "Least Among Saints" manages to entertain thanks to its wonderful story of bonding and love between two people who find sanity in one another.
The cast carry this film with incredible performances. Especially from stars Martin Papazian and Tristan Lake Leabu, both of whom not only have a great chemistry but pour themselves in their roles. Papazian is often times completely erratic and does nothing but take the wrong road to good intentions, but we still want to see him succeed and make something for himself in the end.While Anthony's choices are often misguided, he seems to have the right idea in how he wants to respond as a surrogate father and guardian. A scene involving a schoolyard fight will leave many audiences cringing, but it works because character Anthony seems to want impart a lesson to Wade. Papazian conveys an unbalanced depression in the character, while also firmly keeping us entrenched in his dilemma.
Leabu perfectly keeps up with Papazian as character Wade who is trying to make some sense of a life he's always wanted, and can also never seem to make wise decisions. There are also excellent supporting performances by Charles S. Dutton as a law enforcement official sympathetic to Anthony's mental distress, while Laura San Giacomo is a bonafide scene stealer as a no nonsense child welfare worker who does whatever she can to ensure Wade doesn't fall off the radar thanks to his life of trauma and neglect. There are also great walk on's from AJ Cook, and Azura Skye. While "Least Among Saints" is not the most original premise, it succeeds as a very entertaining and gripping fractured family tale about kindred spirits and becoming a hero in an entirely new battlefield. The top notch production qualities, great direction, and fantastic ensemble performances make this film a definite recommendation.
The DVD Release features a "From Script to Screen" production segment, a short about the veterans on "Least Among Saints," short interviews with the cast on their experiences working with director Martin Papazian, and an audio commentary with director Martin Papazian.