Directed By Rafal Zielinski
Starring: Joey Dedio, Genevieve Bujold, Chad Allen
Domencia Cameron-Scorsese, Flora Martinez
Running Time: 103 Minutes
2 ½ Stars
Downtown: A Street Tale rehashes that old familiar chestnut-a bunch of down and out kids band together and try to make a life for themselves. Angelo (Joey Dedio, who also wrote the script) is a 27 year old former junkie trying to deal with his own demons. He is the ringleader of rag-tag bunch of street kids who live together in a Manhattan squat. It’s a very gritty street version of Party Of Five as we are introduced to Raquel (Mihaela Tudorof) a promiscuous Romanian girl with unsupportive parents, gay black hairdresser Lamont (Jeremy Alan Richards), Hunter (Chad Allen), the rich kid turned heroin addict, Maria (Flora Martinez), Hunter’s doomed girlfriend, RoseMary (Rachel Vasquez), a stripper with show biz aspirations and Tito (Johnny Sanchez), the sweet, mentally challenged Latino. Angelo later befriends 2 innocent young Texans he meets on the way home. Fledging rock star Billy (James Ransone ), and his girlfriend Cheri (Domencia Cameron Scorsese-yes, she’s Martin’s daughter) have just arrived in the big, bad city and have no place to stay. They join the gang, somewhat apprehensively.
The camaraderie between the bunch seems a little too "fairy tale" at first but the soap opera slowly develops. The kids’ stories are woven together through their meetings with Aimee, (veteran actress Genevieve Bujold) a stern but caring counselor at Haven House, a shelter for runaways. Bujold’s Aimee is the glue that holds the story together, as she tries to steer the motley group in the right direction. The kids confront their demons, meet a tragic end, or go back home by the end of the film. The stories all get resolved on Christmas Eve, no less.
While that bare bones kids gone wrong plot, Christmas Eve finale included, has the potential for disaster, the young actors manage to infuse their characters with empathy; they are not just central casting runaway-hooker cutouts going through the motions. And the gritty NYC background is appropriately nasty, as a collection of seedy motels, subways, playgrounds, and bridges are represented in all their grungy glory. Even Haven House itself is earthy and sullen. Far from a ray of light at the end of the tunnel, it seems more like an organic part of the kids’ world. Downtown: A Street Tale visits well-worn indie-film territory, but the earnest performances save it from becoming clichéd.