During a sweltering summer in New York City, 13-year-old Mister’s hard-living mother is apprehended by the police, leaving the boy and nine-year-old Pete alone to forage for food while dodging Child Protective Services and the dangers of the Brooklyn projects. Faced with more than a child should be expected to bear, the resourceful Mister nevertheless feels he is an unstoppable force against seemingly immovable obstacles. But, what really keeps the pair in the survival game is much more Mister's vulnerability than his larger-than-life attitude.
A beautifully observed and tremendously moving film about salvation through friendship and the way transformation sometimes can happen just by holding on long enough.
What we thought:
In The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete poverty gets a face we seldom see. It takes us into the heart of the Brooklyn projects and exposes us to a world that most of us are blissfully unaware of. A world where drug lords rule, where crime is rife, where homelessness is a constant threat and where children go to bed with an empty stomach more often than not.
We first meet Mister (Skylan Brooks) sitting in class on the brink of summer vacation. It looks bleak for him as he might have to repeat the same grade come autumn. He looks like a tough kid but there’s a fragile vulnerability that he tries to mask with his tough guy act. Mister lives in a rundown apartment with his mother Gloria (Jennifer Hudson), a heroin addict who prostitutes herself to feed her habit. She wants to stop working for a local pimp (Anthony Mackie) but she’s trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction.
Mister’s mom gets arrested and he becomes the caretaker of Pete (Ethan Dizon,) a nine-year-old neighbour who is even worse off than Mister. Left to fend for themselves the boys have to survive hunger and the impending threat of being carted off by child services to a group home of horrors.
Mister is a smart and resourceful child schooled in the ways of the world and for two months he manages to keep both him and Pete safe and fed. Despite seeing and experiencing so many bad things he holds out hope that he can change his circumstances by auditioning for a television show. Mister’s escape is the movies. He has studied performances from the likes of Will Smith and Eddie Murphy. But there is only so much a fourteen year old boy can endure on his own. And when Mister’s inevitable defeat comes you will weep with him.
The adults are merely the supporting cast. Brooks and Dizon are without a doubt the stars of the show making it hard to believe that they are both relative newcomers.
The weight of the movie rests largely on the tiny shoulders of Brooks. He steals your heart with those sad, soulful eyes. There are moments when all you want to do is reach out and just hug this boy who has had to grow up way before his time. There is a brilliant scene in which he recites an excerpt from the movie Fargo and then goes into a sad portrayal of his mother that will give you goose bumps. Brooks portrays Mister with a maturity way beyond his years.
The total opposite of Brooks’s world wise Mister is Dizon as Pete. Pete still has a childlike innocence not yet spoiled by his bleak life experience. Dizon’s portrayal is quietly powerful.
This coming of age story will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. While Mister and Pete’s tale is a sad one it is also a message of hope. It’s in essence the story of survival of the body, mind and spirit. It’s the story of that fierce human desire not to be held down by your circumstances, but to rise above them.