A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

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A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Guide to recognizing your saints.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byDito Montiel
Screenplay byDito Montiel
Based onA Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
by Dito Montiel
Produced byClara Markowicz
Charlie Corwin
Trudie Styler
Travis Swords
Robert Downey Jr.
StarringRobert Downey Jr.
Shia LaBeouf
Rosario Dawson
Melonie Diaz
Eric Roberts
Channing Tatum
Chazz Palminteri
Dianne Wiest
CinematographyÉric Gautier
Edited byJake Pushinsky
Christopher Tellefsen
Music byJonathan Elias
Distributed byFirst Look International
Release dates
September 29, 2006 (limited)
January 23, 2007
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,035,468

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a 2006 American drama film based on a 2001 memoir of the same name by author, director, and musician Dito Montiel, which describes his youth in Astoria, New York during the 1980s. Montiel wrote and directed the film adaptation, which was released in the United States in September and October 2006 and in Europe in March 2007.[1] The film stars Robert Downey Jr. as Montiel with Shia LaBeouf as a younger Montiel.

The film's narrative jumps frequently between 2005 and flashbacks from 1986 (filmed largely with shaky camera with short shots) with characters occasionally addressing the viewer.


Present Day (2001):
Dito is a successful writer in Los Angeles. One day, after being urged by his mother, Flori, and his friend, Nerf, Dito visits his childhood home, Astoria, New York, because his father has suddenly become very ill. The film switches back and forth between the present and flashbacks with Dito's memories in the summer of 1986.

Dito meets Nerf, and talks with him in a parked car, where they can talk undisturbed, which would not have been possible at Nerf's house. Dito then visits Laurie, his childhood sweetheart, who is now a mother. They only talk through the open window; she does not let him in. Dito finally visits his overprotective father, Monty. Monty used to ignore Dito's feelings, and he didn't want Dito to travel. He is angry at Dito for leaving, and for not returning sooner to visit; he then sends Dito away. Laurie urges him to be a man and come to terms with his father, who was heartbroken when he left. Dito does leave, but returns later, to insist that he take his father to the hospital.

Antonio, an overconfident, volatile boy with an abusive father, eventually kills someone: the Puerto Rican gang member Reaper, as payback for an attack on young Dito.

Viewers are then introduced to Antonio's younger brother, Giuseppe - reckless, destructive, and possibly insane. Giuseppe lies on a subway track; in spite of urgent warnings from his brother Antonio and Nerf, that a train was coming, he failed to get back on the platform and was killed.

Mike O'Shea, another friend of Dito's, was a Scottish boy who dreamt of becoming a musician. Mike and Dito had planned to go to California on a bus. They worked for a gay drug addict, Frank, with a dog-walking business. They went to his house to collect the wages he was slow in paying. At first he did not listen to them, but then he gave them all the money he kept in the refrigerator, more than he owed them and told them to leave town. Shortly thereafter, Mike was murdered by a member of a Puerto Rican gang in retaliation for the murder of Reaper, after which Dito travelled alone to California.

Present Day:
Dito visits the adult Antonio in prison and sees him as a changed man of wisdom. The film concludes with the two of them sitting down in conversation.



This film was Montiel's directorial debut.

Initially, Montiel refused to see LaBeouf for the part, having only seen him as the "Disney guy." Once he got to audition for the role, he "fucked his office up," putting a "hole through the wall" and went as "crazy" as he could in order to change the image Montiel had of him to land the part.[2]


Montiel states that all the characters in the film are a combination of at least three people and sometimes six or seven,[3] although some characters are given the names of people from real life. Listed below are some of the main differences between four characters and their real-life counterparts.


Montiel said that he made the film because “I wanted to walk down those streets again and fall in love with Laurie again,[4] it would have been nice to have had that moment at the end of the film where Dito met Laurie, reconnecting as adults."[4] The real-life Laurie was white instead of Hispanic and died two years earlier from AIDS.[5]


Montiel states that Antonio is a composite of three people.[3] The book mentions a kid named Antonio Ruggeria who was sent to prison for manslaughter,[6] escaped, and was later sent to prison again for things "that are even beyond putting in a movie that people might find redeemable."[3] In the book, a copy of a newspaper article describing Antonio's escape from Rikers Island has the crime he committed blanked out.[7]


The film shows Giuseppe getting killed on a subway track. The inspiration for the scene was a kid named Billy who was "riding" trains when he was killed.[3] The real Giuseppe Ruggeria is a career criminal[5] who was deported to Milan.[3] Montiel describes the real Giuseppe as being like a cat. "The train would come and two seconds later he would pop up."[3]


The Scottish character Mike is a composite of a man named Mike O'Shea;[5] a kid named Ray, who used to go to the city with Dito, sniff amyl nitrite[4] and smoke hashish;[8] and Angelo Ruggeria (a younger brother of Antonio) who was later murdered.[9][10] The real Mike O'Shea is Irish, alive, married, and living in Essex, England.[5][10]


The film made $2,035,468 worldwide. It currently holds a 75% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Sundance Film Festival
Year Group Award Won? Notes
2006 Director's Award Dramatic, for Dito Montiel Yes
Special Jury Prize Dramatic, for the ensemble cast Yes Shared between Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf, Rosario Dawson, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, and Channing Tatum
Grand Jury Prize Dramatic, for Dito Montiel No
Gijón International Film Festival
Year Group Award Won? Notes
2006 Best Actor Dramatic, for Adam Scarimbolo Yes
Independent Spirit Awards
Year Group Award Won? Notes
2006 Best First Screenplay for Dito Montiel No Lost to Little Miss Sunshine
Best Supporting Male for Channing Tatum No Lost to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine
Best Supporting Female for Melonie Diaz No Lost to Frances McDormand for Friends with Money

Home video release[edit]

The DVD of the film was released on February 20, 2007 in the United States.[11]


  1. ^ "ChanningTatumUnwrapped.com". A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints European Movie Premiere. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  2. ^ Robinson, Tasha (2007-04-11). "INTERVIEW Shia LaBeouf". AV Club. Onion Inc. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Interview with Dito Montiel, director of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints". Nycmovieguru.com. 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
  4. ^ a b c [1] Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c d "Dito Montiel - A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints". Femail.com.au. 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
  6. ^ Dito Montiel, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2007) pp 17 - 26
  7. ^ Dito Montiel, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2007) p25
  8. ^ Dito Montiel, A Guide to Recognising Your Saints (2007) pp 81 - 83
  9. ^ Dito Montiel, A Guide to Recognising Your Saints (2007) pp 89-91
  10. ^ a b "Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". Aintitcool.com. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
  11. ^ "ChanningTatumUnwrapped.com". A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints DVD Release. Retrieved January 18, 2007.

External links[edit]