Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s directorial debut is charming, at times vulnerable, and more than anything, personal. All These Small Moments circles the complexities of coming-of-age tales, the secret obsessions, the gnawing angst, and the feeling of impending social dooms. What’s particularly fascinating is the way the film hones in on the catharsis each one of the characters endures. Life is messy, love is messy, and sometimes the two aren’t quite clear when you’re just a teenager. Howie (Brendan Meyer) goes to high school. He gets on the public transit to school every morning with his younger brother Simon (Sam McCarthy), both of whom are experiencing the dual frustration of what’s going on at home, their parents’ impending separation. It’s when Howie becomes infatuated with a woman on his bus that he begins to understand what growing up can feel like…or how he can easily overestimate this complicated thing called ‘life.’
When we’re young we tend to put on a front to others that we are the confident version of ourselves, the version that feels they know everything and are much older and ready for things like love. Howie’s heavy handed obsession with the blonde woman on the bus (Jemima Kirke) is all too relatable, paving his arc as one of wander and chance. Brushing his hands against hers when they’ve missed their morning bus is an awkward gesture and enough to even introduce her background as the film unfolds, revealing yet another layer to the film. Keeping this admiration personal, it almost acts like a coping mechanism to his parents’ tension, believing and holding onto a gaze he can speculate. When he’s dismissed from P.E. class for his already broken arm, he hangs out in study hall and meets Lindsay (Harley Quinn Smith), a perceptive, curious girl who develops a liking to Howie, and who offers relief to both herself and the story as it moves forward. Although Howie’s world constantly collides with the rockiness of his parents’, and it’s in those “small moments” where the film makes the personal and the reality intertwine effortlessly.
Molly Ringwald and Brian d’Arcy James are a sublime duo as Howie and Simon’s parents, Carla and Tom, who still do have enough love between them to produce precious moments of emotional punch in the film. Ringwald, of course, is a sensation in acting, laying down the raw, complex, bittersweet disembrace that accompanies such a point in a marriage. d’Arcy James’ character is imperfect but a devoted father and very much three dimensional in the story that forms. It’s a marriage very much on the rocks. When Carla meets Tom at a barber shop, he can’t help but wonder where things went awry, telling her he saw them in a twenty-something couple on the street, happy and in love. The film explores the ways this directly affects the children in the middle of it all, unknowingly battling their own anxieties. Running parallel to Howie’s experience is the sense of flustered new beginnings, both in navigating his parent’s divorce and exploring what his feelings for someone else actually mean.
Costanzo’s storytelling proves to be fresh, unwavering, and worth watching out for. All These Small Moments are what they are, the moments that pain us, confuse us, and help us grow no matter the conditions. Part universal, part personal, this film is exceptionally well made, well meaning, and completely human.
Directed by: Melissa B. Miller Costanzo
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Brendan Meyer, Brian d’Arcy James, Harley Quinn Smith, Sam McCarthy, Jemima Kirke