A male bonding buddy movie linking generations, Least Among Saints pairs two emotionally wounded next door neighbors tackling demons from both without and within, and let’s just say ties up every loose end imaginable in the process. Which makes for a highly unlikely odd couple union, not just between the orphan kid in question and the alcoholic grownup who takes him under wing, but in a kind of cut and paste of a gritty indie with far fetched Hollywood fantasy as well.
Martin Papazian, who has put together an all purpose, virtually one man operation as writer, director and star of Least Among Saints, is Anthony Hayward, a combat soldier just returned from Afghanistan. Clearly moody and mentally troubled, Hayward rejects an offer from the military to help him readjust psychologically to civilian life. And then heads back directly to his now vacant childhood home in an Arizona burb, after remarking solemnly that he came from places he can’t pronounce, to return to nothing but divorce papers.
And it seems that his ex-wife and childhood sweetheart Jenny (Audrey Marie Anderson) has also taken out a restraining order against Hayward, though exactly why is never explained. And with no sense of a hopeful future in store, Hayward, following a run-in with the local police while driving under the influence, prepares to hang himself in his garage with a garden hose. But is interrupted by an altercation next door involving a junkie prostitute single mom (A.J. Cook) and her latest john. And after she ODs and departs for the afterlife the next day in rather rapid succession, Hayward at first reluctantly then adamantly takes her similarly disgruntled preteen son Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu) home as a kind of instant surrogate dad.
Which as you can imagine, does not sit well with the child welfare social worker Jolene (Laura San Giacomo). But who is likely to eventually bend every existing rule to make it happen, and essentially see the light. As will Hayward’s estranged wife, who may very well change her mind about him, though we’re never told why.
But none of these developments should come as a complete surprise, considering that why such young men’s lives should be destroyed by US military incursions abroad in the first place, is never a subject of discourse or scrutiny here. Hayward simply heals all the emotional damage that’s been done, in the course about forty minutes running time up to the credits. And in part with the kindly assistance of a police chief (Charles S. Dutton) who is willing to give Hayward a pass on multiple serious charges, including kidnapping twice.
Papazian, along with Leabu, excel in performances resonating with raw intensity and dramatic authenticity. And Papazian conceived of Least Among Saints while costarring in Sam Mendes’ war drama Jarhead, where he was earnestly inspired by the tragic circumstances facing US soldiers in war for real. Though the material forming the basis of Papazian’s film is strictly second hand, and unfortunately it shows.
2 1/2 stars