“Least Among Saints”
“Least Among Saints” is a good title for a movie about a returning vet who’s been to the war zone, and still has nightmares. Yes, it’s about post-traumatic stress syndrome, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. And it isn’t. But if you will allow it, this one will get inside your skin.
Martin Papazian writes, directs, and stars, as Anthony, the 30-something just-discharged civilian who spends too much time getting drunk, and mooning over his ex-spouse, who’s put a restraining order on him. He parks his truck in her yard and honks his horn at 4 a.m., and she comes out in her pajamas and tells him in no uncertain terms to go home.
But home isn’t much. He hasn’t really moved in to his rent house, because he really doesn’t want to. The boxes and the couch are still in the yard. There’s a bed, but he hasn’t used it much. A few things in the kitchen, and a few things in the shop in the garage. He’s depressed, and he knows it, but shrugs off the Marine’s offer for counseling or group therapy. He’s too macho for that wimpy stuff. So he blunders and stumbles around in a haze, thinking about ending it all, but life intervenes.
There’s a next-door neighbor boy, Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu) whose Mom is a crackhead, and despite the fact that she’s fairly attractive, she hangs out with a loser boyfriend because he’s also her supplier. That leaves Wade pretty much on his own, which Anthony hardly notices, except when Wade comes banging on his door one night, and asks him to come running, his Mom isn’t breathing.
Sure enough, Anthony gets embroiled in the family drama next door, which in one way is none of his business, but in another way gives him something to worry about besides himself. He sees in Wade someone who’s been through a lot, like himself, and is a little lost, like himself, and a little bit of a social misfit, like himself. And he finds himself not only developing a certain affection and concern for Wade, but Anthony also begins to understand that taking care of someone who needs him can actually be his own redemption, as well.
Sound a little predictable and schmaltzy? Well, yes, but we still retain our rough edges while doing so. The language is not for the easily offended, and though there’s no sexuality or nudity, there are plenty of lamentable “adult situations”---some of them, regrettably, involving children.
What’s memorable about this film are the people who showed a little kindness along the way ,even though it wasn’t their job. The nurse in the emergency room. The detective at the station house. Even the social worker (Laura San Giacomo), if you can get past her initial crustiness. Yes, little acts of kindness mean a lot. Particularly to those who feel they are drowning right now, and any kind of lifeline is something to grab on to and hold on for dear life.
“Least Among Saints” is not a thriller, and doesn’t have big-name stars, and will probably lack huge audiences. But it’s a sad, familiar story well-told, and one we probably need to heed. For their name is Legion.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas