23 Apr 2022
Louis Maxwell & David Gilna
Kenneth Hudson, David Gilna, Sadhbh Malin, Ebony O’Toole-Acheampong
Following the passing of their mother, two brothers reunite at her funeral. Shane (Kenneth Hudson), the younger of the pair, looked after his mother during her illness and now struggles to forgive his older sibling, Alex (David Gilna), for his absence.
It wouldn’t be hard to predict that Shane may be in for some uncomfortable hard truths that would explain his older brother’s behaviour. However, this short does reach into the heart of a rather familiar plot and finds some real emotion. This is in part down to the chemistry between the core cast. Gilna and Hudson manage to walk that exact tightrope between melodrama and reality, and the excellent Sadhbh Malin forms a naturalistic balance as Shane’s confidant. One of the most interesting and unique elements of the film is the use of anachronistically soft focus, which pairs nicely with the characters’ talk of leaving Ireland for America. The strength of the combination almost makes the rest of the modern staging feel out of place. The lack of clarity also plays into the surrounding theme of grief. The ‘this isn’t real, this isn’t happening to me’ sensation of loss. Timelessness and weightlessness. The cinematic aesthetic contrasts generously with the difficult domestic struggles of the two leads.
But not all the risks that were taken in Brother pay off. The film is bookended by musical sequences. The first, a prologue, features the two brothers as children learning to play the piano with their mother. The wordless scene gently introduces the characters, competition between the two, the love of music and the bond they share with their mother. Simple and effective. However, the musical sequence that forms the film’s climax does not function as desired. What is meant to be an intimate and personal song feels distant and disconnected as it is being sung by someone who is not the actor onscreen. This jarring conflict disappointingly undercuts the conclusion.
Brother is an affecting and moving drama that takes some interesting risks despite a middling plot. An ill-judged decision at the conclusion derivates from the well-measured tone, but it isn’t an unusual cinematic crime to commit.