The Porter Brothers
30 Aug 2021
Wilhelm Kuhn, Joe Ryan Laia
Cai Dale, Glenn Conroy, Jina Rahimi, Daniel Sommerford, Emmanuel Koutsis
Brothers Sam and Ned Porter ride across the countryside with the rest of their outlaw gang robbing banks and dealing with anyone who gets in their way. One night while camping out in the wilderness between scores, Sam finds himself captured by bounty hunters, who are willing to cut him loose provided he can give them the man they really want, his brother. A story of redemption and consequence, The Porter Brothers from writer/director William Kuhn weaves a cautionary tale of living with one’s decisions.
The Porter Brothers marks the first foray into both writing and directing by filmmaker Wilhelm Kuhn as part of his thesis for the London Film School and as far as first attempts go, it’s a pretty darn good one. A self-proclaimed lover of the western genre, Kuhn does it a lot of justice here, The Porter Brothers deftly capturing the appropriate look and feel one would hope for from a western. Not only is Kuhn’s direction something to be applauded, but when put together with Jackie Teboul‘s marvellous cinematography and Andrea Boccadoro’s resounding score, it all comes together to create something pretty special.
The film does a lot with the it’s runtime, and the large majority of what it does it does very well indeed. There are plenty of dramatic set pieces and interesting character moments that ensure the film flows nicely and with purpose. The performances from the well-selected cast are solid, their dialogue both well-written and well-delivered, with no one seemingly just playing cowboy, but rather giving the film yet more gravitas and authenticity on top of the abundance it already has.
Kuhn (along with co-writer Joe Ryan Laia) manages to establish his world swiftly and concisely too, the tenuous and fraught dynamic of the two brothers’ relationship immediately evident to us but it's a lean and efficient script too that not only proceeds to let everything else simply play out at its natural pace, but still manages to cover a plethora of themes such as grief, redemption and guilt.
It's slightly frustrating however that perhaps due to the length of the piece, which clocks in at forty minutes, The Porter Brothers doesn’t give itself quite enough time to truly explore a lot of the intriguing sub-plots and character details that it teases, such as Glenn Conroy’s pastor’s past, a story that seems full of fertile ground. These moments, which most likely might have been cut from a shorter runtime, help pad things out, keep things moving and are never unwelcome, but because the film finds itself trying to use what time it has to make sure it has enough meat on its bones in terms of story beats and drama to keep that aforementioned pace alive, these moments don’t get enough runway meaning Kuhn’s characters while undeniably intriguing and diverse enough to initially bring us in and keep us there, perhaps don’t connect enough with us by the end for us to utterly invest ourselves in them, good or bad.
Some fleshing out of its characters aside, The Porter Brothers is a bold and commendable debut, the innate talent and obvious skill as a filmmaker that Kuhn has been showing since is undeniably nascent here. Having since gone on to create wonderful short film The Nephew (Le Neveu), it’s clear Kuhn’s eye for the visually pleasing and aptitude for storytelling has and probably never will be anything less than impressive.