Where God Left His Shoes

Where God Left His Shoes


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Sometimes performances ruin a film. Sometimes they lift it to an unexpected level. This is certainly true of Where God Left His Shoes, which features acting so on the money, it helps you overlook the inadequacies of plotting.

Frank Diaz (John Leguizamo) is a washed up boxer whose name has just been struck from the card. Going home to tell his wife (Leonor Valera), daughter (Samantha Rose) and step-son Justin (David Castro), it quickly becomes apparent they are about to fall onto the wrong side of the bread line. Neatly showing the baby steps that can lead to a family dropping like a stone through the system, they are evicted and forced to move to a homeless shelter.

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We catch up with them on Christmas Eve, when, they have a chance to get back into a flat, providing Frank can prove he is working – which he is, but it’s strictly off the books. The film, for the most part, follows Frank’s odyssey across Manhattan with Justin in tow as they try to cope with what fate throws their way as he hunts a job. As the day wears on - Frank must find a job by six - the pair become increasingly desperate and, importantly, they carry the audience with them.

Although the situation feels slightly contrived – particularly the almost ridiculous amounts of bad luck that befall them and the close proximity to Christmas – the script is bang on. In fact, it’s so realistic it makes you wonder if Leguizamo and Valera weren’t improvising much of the action with the children, running with them to find the ‘right notes’. If so, it is a credit to them, since the relationships feel perfectly real. If not, then writer/director Salvatore Stabile deserves huge kudos, since he gets his cast to achieve a naturalism rarely seen in US-made films.

Even if the situation Frank is in calls for you to cut the story some slack, his character is perfect. Leguizamo puts in what would, in a more mainstream movie, be an Oscar-worthy performance and it's certainly the best acting I've seen all year. Every emotion is there, etched in his face, from joy to disgust, anger and beyond. Let’s hope he stops voicing animated critters for cash (Sid the Sloth in Ice Age) and gets a lot more work like this. Castro, too, is note perfect as a step-son with self-doubt issues – he is a child actor to look out for, the sort who could give Dakota Fanning a run for her money. There are heart-felt moments, but Stabile doesn’t let things get too sentimental, always keeping the fear of homelessness lurking beneath the emotions and adding the sort of inconsequential family detail that counts. A bitter-sweet gem.

Reviewed on: 25 May 2007
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Bittersweet tale of life on the breadline in New York.

Director: Salvatore Stabile

Writer: Salvatore Stabile

Starring: John Leguizamo, Leonor Valera, David Castro, Samantha Rose, Jerry Ferrara, Manny Perez

Year: 2007

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: US


Tribeca 2007

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