The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
Three Stars
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
Starring Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks
Rated R

"The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete" is set largely in Brooklyn public housing and follows two kids of the sort who routinely slip through the cracks. Mister (Skylan Brooks), 13, is the son of a drug-addicted prostitute mother (Jennifer Hudson). Pete (Ethan Dizon), 9, faces a similar situation.

Directed by George Tillman Jr. ("Notorious") and scored by Alicia Keys, the movie takes place over the course of a summer in which Mister and Pete are forced to fend for themselves in order to avoid child services after their moms disappear.

Terrible things happen during the film but it's not a grim wallow in the depths of poverty. Instead, "Mister and Pete" comes across as an authentic coming of age story, largely thanks to the exceptional work of young actors Brooks and Dizon and a screenplay that understands the teenage mind. There's hope here and it's earned, not forced.

The filmmaker asks a lot of his young stars. They don't just have to carry the movie, as Mister and Pete try to survive without much food and with even less money, evading the police while dreaming of a better future. Brooks and Dizon must show us the characters' complicated souls: the way Mister's anger masks a kindness of spirit, the vulnerability that comes with having to grow up too quickly and how Pete's sweetness disguises deep traumas.

The best scenes in the movie are the quiet ones: Mister staring at himself in the mirror and hating what he sees, caring for a feverish Pete by running a bath, watching horrified as robbers storm down the hallways. An authentic vision of urban life, in all its complex forms, engulfs these protagonists. We know Mister and Pete's summer will end; it's inevitable, as the title reminds us. But the journey has ample rewards.

Jets radio changing stations … Landfill violations … Strawberry on Mets season  Credit: Newsday

Updated 8 minutes ago PSEG arson indictments ... New redistricting map ... Jets radio changing stations ... $7M Center Moriches home

Jets radio changing stations … Landfill violations … Strawberry on Mets season  Credit: Newsday

Updated 8 minutes ago PSEG arson indictments ... New redistricting map ... Jets radio changing stations ... $7M Center Moriches home

Latest video

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME