I'm of two minds about A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, a new dramatic film written and directed by Dito Montiel and written from his own memoirs of growing up in Astoria, Queens during the mid-80s. Parts of it are engaging, thoughtful and affecting, from the first-rate cast (headlined by Robert Downey, Jr. and Shia LaBeouf as different ages of Montiel) to Montiel's skill in demonstrating through visuals and dialogue how what we're watching is not necessarily the past as it happened but as Dito remembers it. At the same time, it's hard to be too engaged by the adolescent struggles of Dito and his friends Nerf, Guiseppe, Mick and Antonio as they drift aimlessly through a humid swamp of testosterone and ignorance.

In the present day, Dito's a writer, living in Los Angeles, far from New York. But a call from his mother Flori (Dianne Wiest) imploring Dito to come home to see his ill father Monty (Chazz Palminteri) puts Dito on the next plane to New York … and onto the on-ramp for memory lane. Dito (played in the past by LaBeouf) is spending a sweltering summer in Queens hanging out with his pals. He has the possibility of pleasure in a romance with neighborhood girl Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and the possibility of danger as a local graffiti war heats up. …