In this romantic coming-of-age story, young Gabe (Josh Hutcherson),whose parents are going through a divorce, is falling in love for the very first time. After deciding to take a karate class over the summer, the ten-year-old quickly falls for Rosemary (Charlie Ray), his schoolmate, who also happens to take karate and is amazing at it. All of a sudden, a girl who’s been around his entire life becomes the girl of his dreams.
This should be smooth sailing, but Gabe’s mother (Cynthia Nixon) and father (Bradley Whitford) are always around, and so is the tension of them living together with an impending divorce and his mother’s decision to start dating again. When Gabe and Rosemary hang out at her house, the presence of her observant nanny, Birdie (Tonye Patano), and baby sister, while annoying, do nothing to hinder Gabe’s burgeoning feelings for Rosemary.
As Gabe tries to stay afloat in uncharted waters, we see him often mimic the incredibly toxic behaviours of older men: demands to any and all of Rosemary’s spare time, insistence that she change her plans to be with him, obsessive clingy-ness, emotional manipulation, and even abusive language when he fails to get his way. Luckily, our protagonist is still a child, and the love story of Gabe and Rosemary is at it’s most innocent and sincere when he behaves as such, with honesty and affection, rather than emulating the behaviours of his woefully disappointing elders.
Little Manhattan beautifully, and age-appropriately, navigates the hope, joy, and awkwardness of first love, with the children being the focus and the more jaded relationships of the adults around them in the periphery.
I give this one 3.5 stars.