Films like “Ten Thousand Saints” come out a lot these days, and yet filmmakers still find ways to make these stories, as predictable as they may be, fresh and relatable. This film tells the story of a boy named Jude who ends up moving to New York City to be with his estranged father. Leaving his hometown, mom, and best friend behind, Jude soon begins to establish a new life for himself. Doing this he befriends such people as Teddy’s older brother and the daughter of the woman Jude’s father is currently seeing. This film, which comes to us from the filmmakers behind “American Splendor,” has the vibe of a “The Breakfast Club” and “Almost Famous” mixture. All of the characters must deal with important issues about growing up while Jude is watching from the center of it all.
Asa Butterfield from “Hugo” and “Ender’s Game” plays Jude. While this isn’t his best performance, Butterfield delivers on being this rebellious, drug-abusing kid who is just looking for a purpose in life. The character and performance are similar to the 15-year-old version of Mason in “Boyhood.” Both boys rebel and get high, and they also are portrayed as being like hipsters. Hailee Steinfeld, who was in “Ender’s Game” with Butterfield, plays someone who is both similar and different to Jude on different levels. Her character Eliza likes to party, experiment with narcotics, and have a good time, but at the center of it all she’s just a girl trying to mature and find her way in life. Steinfeld also gives a solid performance, though this may be biased saying this due to my strong crush on her. Other actors, such as Emily Mortimer and Avan Jogia, are fine in the film though there’s not a whole lot to say about them outside of that.
The two actors who stand out amongst their costars in the film are Ethan Hawke and Emile Hirsch. They may play characters who are opposites from one another, but the commitment they have to their roles draw viewers in and help give them a break from their grim and dark setting. Hawke’s role as Jude’s estranged father Les is full of energy. In every scene, he’s in he manages to make at least one laugh come out of the audiences’ mouths. Les is a free-spirited, cannabis-selling individual who doesn’t fully understand what it takes to be a father. Emile Hirsch’s Johnny, while also a free-spirit, is a much calmer guy who believes in spirituality and exploring the wonders of life. Hirsch gives some of the finest work in his career mainly due to how charismatic, chill, and down-to-earth he is. These guys continue to impress with great performances, and their work here is no exception.
As good as this film is, there are some problems that should be addressed. The beginning of the film has Jude being this stoner-esque guy with his best friend Teddy, which is fine. The problem with this is how repetitive Jude’s lines are, and how there’s no depth to him whatsoever. There could be a drinking game to the number of times he says “oh s**t” during the first 25 minutes of the movie. The character luckily started to get more interesting, and the dialogue for him got better once the film got rolling. The movie also happens to drag at times, which isn’t very good. While the pace of the movie is fine, there are certain scenes here that feel like overstay their welcome. As a viewer, these types of moments are harder to get through, especially when the rest of the movie is really good. Luckily these are just small problems and don’t fully affect the overall quality of the movie.
The story and characters in “Ten Thousand Saints” may feel familiar, but Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini bring a unique spin on the coming of age genre. They manage to write empathetic and entertaining characters along with an intriguing story that holds onto the audience’s attention. Throughout this journey, we feel like Jude, just taking everything in and hoping things are good in the end. Without spoiling anything, the movie does go down some surprisingly realistic and dark roads that are, for lack of a better term, refreshing. There’s no sugar-coating present here, and that helps the movie as a whole stand out from other movies about teen angst. It may be predictable, and it may not be perfect, but “Ten Thousand Saints” at the end of the day is a sweet and honest little indie movie that’s worth seeking out.