Loosely based on Michael Gregg Michaud’s biography, the film captures a glimpse at Mineo’s life through the happenings of just one day: his last. He eagerly plans his future which includes an upcoming play he rehearses for and promotes . There’s a glimpse at his relationship with his lover Courtney, and his friends. His financial struggles, his addictions and his active lifestyle. All leading up to his unfortunate, seemingly random murder and the culprit’s arrest.
While the film does have its fair share of shortcomings, it is to be commended for its achievements when taking into consideration its nine day shoot and very low budget. Val Lauren is ultimately the main reason to watch as his portrayal is spot-on with Mineo’s spark and natural charm. His performance is raw and relatable, most likely thanks to Val’s long-time career in theater.
Nonetheless, Lauren’s performance aside, one of Sal’s main problem is its credibility. While Franco himself has admitted to framing shots to obscure the modern shoot locations due to the low budget, even the dialogue often seems out of place. Too modern in its slang to portray the seventies. As is the wardrobe which seems acceptable enough for its leads but so often out of place elsewhere.
The two main issues though remain in its pace and shot placement. Franco’s excessive use of extreme close ups and lack of camera movement is meant to create closeness but verges on uncomfortable in several scenes where eating and controversial topics are involved. The audience does learn to love Sal but the awkwardness inevitably remains. And while its slow pace does allow each scene to breathe, mundane things overpower many scenes making interest lower down very quickly.
Ultimately, Sal must be appreciated for what it is. A study of someone’s life, done very simply but not with a lack of heart. Lauren’s performance is rewarding but it is certainly not for Franco fans looking for the latest thrill.