Coming to theaters, On Demand and iTunes from directors Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini and Screen Media is a telling of “Ten Thousand Saints.”
It is the 1980s in and Jude (Asa Butterfield) was adopted by hippie parents in Vermont. While Mom Harriett (Julianne Nicholson) is raising the boy, Dad Les (Ethan Hawke) checked out early in Jude’s life. In high school he meets best bud Teddy (Avan Jogia) and the two are filled with all the mischief that comes with being a teen, and not all of it good.
Les has moved on to a relationship with Diane (Emily Mortimer) and daughter Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld). When Eliza makes a quick visit, she hangs out with Jude and Teddy at a party. While Jude is being roughed up, Teddy and Eliza are making out and then she’s on a bus out of town.
When a tragedy happens, Jude is devastated and Les comes to take the young man to live in New York’s East Village. Les isn’t exactly the parental type allowing Jude free reign as long as he keeps it together. Well, the definition of together depends on the person when Jude finds Teddy’s brother Johnny (Emile Hirsch) and Eliza.
The three hang out together and when the news of a little bundle is discovered, Diane is losing her mind. Johnny is definitely the spiritual one of the bunch who tries to speak his truth to Eliza offering to take his brother Teddy’s place. Jude also finds joy being part of Johnny’s band.
Trying to help, Les sends Eliza and Jude back to Harriet to let things cool down a bit. It is a decision by Johnny that sends everyone into a tale spin into a night that will change everyone.
Butterfield as Jude is a young man who is trying to find his way with a mother who doesn’t have many boundaries and a father who clearly has none. Clearly he has feelings for Eliza and is protective of the memory of his good friend. Butterfield gives a glowing performance as this young actor continues to take strong roles that he plays with ease.
Steinfeld as Eliza is a young woman who deals with the guilt and now stress of a child. As the pregnancy progresses, she becomes unclear about what is right for her. There isn’t the world of 2015 but the 1980’s and if anyone remembers that time period reaching out for help wasn’t always so easy. I truly enjoyed Steinfeld’s performance.
Hirsche as Johnny lives the bohemian life with his band. Befriending Eliza and Jude it all seems so perfect that Teddy is the center of their friendship. The problem is what he believes is right and what truly is are very different. Hirsche takes this role and wraps himself up it which makes this a totally believable character.
Hawke as Les is a man who claims to be a botanist which is a nice way of saying drug dealer in the 1980’s. He could be seen as a free spirit but that’s giving him a little more credit that he probably deserves. Hawke plays this character with ease and the way he speaks is sometimes a little jaw dropping.
Mortimer as Diane is one step away from loosing her mind. Trying to understand how her daughter would come to this situation and crazed that no one is listening to her reason. She tries to keep her manners together but lives on the emotional edge. Her performance is amazing.
Nicholson as Harriet is considered the ‘cool’ mother, even to Diane. Believing they raised good kids Nicholson gives a good non-judgmental Mother performance. I have always enjoyed Nicholson especially in her roles in KINSEY and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Ten Thousand Saints” three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. First of all, it is awesome to see Butterfield and Steinfeld together again. They play so well off of each other and this film proves that. From start to finish the emotions are raw and continue to reopen with each step these two take.
The confusion of Jude and Eliza mixes with the confusion of the times coming to a head in the explosive night in Tompkins Square Park Riots. The story is completely endearing because it is a story of change, attitudes and discovery. The adults Mortimer and Nicholson seem to be going through growing pains of their own as well with Hawke in the middle trying to keep things together as only he knows how.
The ending is beautifully done with the same raw emotion but now, a chance for everyone to heal, and that is certainly what I’d want for all the characters of a film I enjoyed.
The film is adapted from the 2011 New York Times best selling novel by Eleanor Henderson. An official selection of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival the film also uses soundtracks from the era that adds a richness to the film.
In the end — it is all about rage, riot and rebirth!