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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints’: A Searing Autobiographical Coming-of-Age Drama

Movie poster for the film A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints starring Shia LaBeouf and Robert Downey Jr.

“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” (2006) is a spirited autobiographical drama from musician/writer Dito Montiel, detailing his adolescence on the streets of Queens, New York. The film flashes forward-and-back between 2003, with Montiel (Robert Downey Jr.) returning to New York to attend to his ailing father (Chazz Palminteri), and 1986 when when a young Montiel (Shia LaBeouf) runs roughshod on the streets of Queens with a motley crew of neighborhood ruffians.

Much of the storyline focuses on young Montiel and his association with Antonio (Channing Tatum), Nerf (Peter Anthony Tambakis) and Guiseppe (Adam Scarimbolo), as well as his burgeoning relationship with neighborhood girl Laurie (Melonie Diaz). When Montiel is viciously attacked by a Puerto Rican gang member known as “Reaper”, Antonio exacts fierce retribution on behalf of his friend—an audacious act with profound, lifelong consequences.

Written and directed by Montiel himself, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” is a wistful and emotionally charged tale of youthful indiscretion, defiance and reckoning. LaBeouf, Downey and the entire ensemble breathe life into his impassioned and highly personal story, as the film captures a wonderfully reflective air of days-gone-by nostalgia for New York of the mid-80’s. It’s a vivid and and dynamic viewing experience—and one of the finer depictions of pre-Giuliani New York City in all of its seedy glory.


View the trailer:


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