20 Jun 2022
Pano Tsaklas, Jose Fernando, Robert Sean Campbell, Jacob Betts, Casey Semple
Somewhere in Northern California two brothers try to come to terms with their past while dealing with the trials and tribulations of their life and relationships in the present.
Lex (Tsaklas) is a twenty-something year old guy who's been having a bit of a tough time of things. Still reeling and depressed from a recent suicide attempt, borne from deep seated emotions still unresolved from his past, he has been spending his time recuperating in the family's empty holiday home.
There are still plenty of people on hand, however, to keep Lex company and help him to feel better as the summer house attached to the property is being let out to Shane (Betts), a screenplay writer who's taken a retreat there to get some work done. Next door neighbour, Harry (also writer/director Mark Schwab) keeps turning up unannounced too, ready to make eyes at Lex and offer explicit Sugar Daddy advances. Lex's friend, Kenny (Fernando) has also come to stay for a while, ostensibly to help his friend out of a bad situation, but really just to get away from his overbearing husband. And then there's David (Campbell), Lex's brother who's come late to the party with his wife Laura (Semple) and who's been sticking his oar in about everybody's business, shaking things up a little.
So, with our cast of characters all assembled, the story can begin – except that it's not that easy to get into the story at all. All of the characters are pretty much introduced at once and with everybody playing at making advances at everyone else it's very difficult for the viewer to get an initial idea of just who's who and what everyone's relationship to each other is.
The story, such as it is, hangs on the fact that Lex has been getting romantically involved with Shane, but now with everybody else in the mix, those feelings may not be what they once were. Lex fancies Shane; Shane fancies Kenny; Kenny keeps getting confused; David fancies himself; and Harry from next door keeps mooning over Lex in a rather creepy fashion. It's all one big entanglement and nobody is getting what they want from the situation – especially the audience.
Clocking it at over an hour and a half, Brotherly Lies meanders through its storyline with the exclusive use of low volume conversations. Everybody's past, present and future, feelings and emotions, troubles and conflicts are all dealt with in the same slow manner. The fact that the entire film takes place within the confines of the house, opulent and luxurious as it is, also means that the backgrounds don't change and the setting remains static. Nothing happens in the film either.
At one point, about three-quarters of the way through, two characters kiss and this is the extent of the tension and drama that Brotherly Lies provides. Despite all of the conflicting emotions and mixed signals that are supposedly flying around, nobody breaks from their indoor voice to shout, scream, yell, fight, defend or otherwise show any actual emotional involvement in what the plot says they are dealing with. Even the kiss is resolved by a soft closing of the door and the resultant low key conversation afterwards. There is just nothing dramatic happening on screen at all.
Throw into the mix some patchy audio, lacklustre performances, and a clutch of characters who are merely mirrored versions of one another, and Brotherly Lies comes out leaving the viewer bored and unconcerned at the supposed big themes it's trying to deal with. Nothing gets a proper airing, despite ninety-five minutes of continual dialogue, and Literally Nothing Happens.
Whatever it was that Schwab was trying to achieve with this film it sadly feels like he missed the mark by a huge margin. There are signs that he's a talented film-maker in his direction, but in this instance his dialogue, characterisation and non-existent plot let him and his film down. There's just not enough to keep the audience interested for the long, slow, laboured length of the movie – even for those who might be turned onto the film for its themes.
Watch the official trailer here.