Actor Martin Papazian steps behind the camera as well as in front of it for his feature film debut. He plays Anthony, a Gulf War veteran who has recently returned to his suburban hometown and is afflicted by the demons of PTSD, way too much cheap beer, and a pending divorce from his wife (Anderson), who is mightily fed up with his constant nightmares and erratic behavior. After multiple run-ins with the local law – including a sympathetic official played by Charles S. Dutton – Anthony becomes the unofficial guardian of young Wade (Leabu) after the boy’s single mother dies of a drug overdose. Papazian, who also scripted, is good enough in the role of this ex-soldier in search of some sort of redemption, and Leabu is as real a wounded kid as you’re likely to see onscreen this season, but their budding friendship/mentoring comes across as too pat. Least Among Saints is a heartfelt if not exactly heartwarming story of two wounded males, but despite top-notch performances from all the leads, it never really brings anything new to a story that’s already overly familiar.
In between sleeping on a couch in his front yard (he suffers from recurring nightmares of the death of a young civilian girl, which he, presumably, caused) and slewing his battered pickup truck onto his wife’s lawn (the only place he feels safe), Anthony is a walking train wreck, unable to re-adjust to civilian society but a good person nonetheless. Over the course of the film, he teaches Wade how to stand up to the school bully and how to defuse some inner rage by going out for some shooting practice. The latter tactic ends badly, and when the cops arrive and then call in Child Protective Services … well, you know the drill.
It all ends on a grace note that feels false but caps an otherwise solid if predictable drama. The treacly postscript just doesn’t sit well with what’s come before. Not a bad debut feature, to be sure, but neither is it one that we’ll be watching again anytime soon.