Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
The memoirist turned screenwriter turned director has hit it out of the park with his first feature, crafting an unflinching, often brutal retrospective of his formative years in Astoria, Queens.
Given all the filmed memory pieces about screaming, violent Italian-American families in New York boroughs, I'm not especially thrilled by even a well-made example.
It's not the whole, rough-edged film that appeals most, but the individual moments that feel exactly right, accumulating to form a lasting impression.
Montiel attempts to interweave past and present, but he yields so much time to his teenage years that the present-day material comes perilously close to looking like a framing story.
Like an O'Neill play, its virtues are not in well-constructed ideas but in the emotional catharses it wrings out of its audience.
The first-time filmmaker aspires to show us what caused him to leave his neighborhood and stay gone for 20 years. All I can really glean is that the place was too loud.
Los Angeles Times:
There's a quality of daring in Montiel's approach, trusting that the intensity of his feeling for his characters can become contagious.
Though A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is not a great movie, I prefer its street-grit version of adolescent desperation to the arch, mannered tone of Running With Scissors.
Montiel brings enough of his own emotional confusion and life experience to the party to make the cuts feel real, to make one more tale of mistakes and mangled youth worth following.
Detroit Free Press:
Guide gets the details right, recalling the minutiae of Dito's teen years -- from clothes to conversations -- with near-psychoanalytical clarity.
The flow of flashbacks isn't as seamless as it could be. But, as noted, coping with one's past is never as neat as most other movies make it out to be.
New York Daily News:
'Stick to the book' isn't always the best advice for a screenwriter adapting a best- seller, but when it's his own memoir, it would lend a more certain authenticity.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints illustrates that it's still possible to do something interesting with a familiar premise.
The praise heaped upon A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is way too much, way too soon.
San Francisco Chronicle:
The results, although a bit uneven, are never less than compelling to watch and won a couple of awards at Sundance last year, including a directing prize.
Saints is so personal and site-specific a work that it's hard to imagine what Dito Montiel will pull out of his hat for an encore. But even if this is the only movie he has in him, the Queens kid hasn't done so badly for himself after all.
Globe and Mail:
The movie never answers the question of why, exactly, the audience should care about these characters.
It takes a while to recognize these saints, but the effort is worth it.
The plot itself might not break much new ground, but the telling, by both cast and crew, makes this a memoir to remember.
The effect is one of a fabulous acting showcase more than a wholly finished work.
Blessed enough to have drawn Gautier and Downey away from better-paying gigs, the kid hasn't likely failed to recognize his saints.
Pulses with the honesty and spontaneity of early films by Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee.