Resonates and compels in equal measure.

Evocative of the raw authenticity of Mean Streets and the depiction of the power of teenage friendship in Sleepers, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is based upon director Dito Montiel’s own experiences of growing up in Queens, New York, in the Eighties.

Robert Downey Jr. leads as Dito, a now successful writer based in Los Angeles, who is forced to return to Queens when his father (Chazz Palminteri) becomes ill.

Downey Jr. is the sentimental heart of the film and, alongside Rosario Dawson and Eric Roberts, the trio’s sense of nostalgia is tinged with a sense of loss. However, it’s the younger members of the cast that truly create a work of emotional and dramatic intensity. Channing Tatum steps up to deliver a remarkable performance as the younger Antonio, an unpredictable and erratic character battling with an abusive father.

Elsewhere, the cast demonstrate exactly why they were named Best Ensemble at Sundance. Shia LeBeouf conveys the subtleties of his character with consummate ease whilst keeping his yearning for a better life at the forefront. Martin Compston excels as the aspiring Scottish punk Mike O’Shea whilst Adam Scarimbolo makes the most of a small, if vitally engaging, role as the unhinged Giuseppe.

The plot pivots and weaves between moments of high tension, dashes of humour and the often heartbreaking depths of personal bonds. Montiel is freethinking in his exposition of various key scenes; some are choreographed to the audience to create a sense of the depressing inevitability that circumstances create, others switch from carefree laughter to amplified darkness in the click of a finger. A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is a vivid multi-layered movie that resonates and compels in equal measure.

Follow Clash: