MRR Movie Review: My Brothers

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Set over Halloween weekend of 1987, My Brothers is the story of three young brothers' epic quest to replace their dying father's watch. Noel, 17, serious, weighed down by responsibility; Paudie: 11, cocky, not so bright and dreams of playing in goals for Liverpool and Scwally: 7, naive and obsessed with Star Wars. Using a battered bread van, the brothers embark on a journey across the wild Irish landscape on the Halloween weekend, grinding gears and screaming at each other to get to an arcade machine in Ballybunion. Along the way they are detoured by escalating brotherly battles in an off-beat and moving journey that can only lead them home
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Movie Review: "My Brothers"

-- Rating: NR
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 17, 2012
Directed By: Paul Fraser
Genre: Drama

Anyone who has ever had a troubled familial relationship can relate to the characters in "My Brothers." The foreign film, which landed in Ireland in 2010, finally made its way to the United States, giving viewers the chance to bond with these familiar characters.

Set in 1987, the film follows three brothers who take a road trip together on Halloween weekend. Noel (Timmy Creed) is the oldest and the one his brothers should turn to, but he is too consumed with thoughts about their father. As the film continues, viewers learn that their father lies dying at home, and the boys just want to escape their lives for a few days. Along for the ride is middle child Paudie (Paul Courtney), who seemingly looks up to his older brother and does whatever he asks, and Scwally (T.J. Griffin), the baby of the family who escapes into the "Star Wars" universe to get away from his life.

It doesn't take long before the film sets up its premise. Noel has a watch that his father won for him years ago, and he wants to win a replica of that watch for his dying father. Despite being seriously injured, he continues on his journey by forcing Paudie to help him handle their old dilapidated van. While "My Brothers" is a film with a dark edge, it is a heartwarming tale of three brothers drawn together.

Paul Fraser is a first-time director who clearly knows his way around the camera. He frequently adds background elements that remind viewers that something dark awaits the trio at home. Whether it's the van that barely runs or the darkening sky behind them, viewers will understand that this isn't a film with a traditional happy ending. That darkness carries over into the scenes where the brothers finally reach Ballybunion, the amusement park town where Noel hopes to win the watch. Though they assume everything will be fine once they get there, they quickly learn that the community looks nothing like it did when they were younger, subtly telling viewers that nothing is as it seems.

Adding to that darkness is a scene where Scwally finds a whale dying on the beach. Although the three could attempt to help, they instead do nothing. They simply stand on the beach and poke the dying animal as the sun sets behind them. This scene is one of the strongest in the film because it implies that despite their ages and experiences, none of the boys can handle the idea of death.

Those dark moments tend to overwhelm the film at times. When Noel gets tired of arguing with Paudie, he sends his brother into the backseat, making him ride down the road on the floor. In one scene, the young boy climbs out of the van, only to find himself having a conversation with a man who is clearly a pedophile. Screenwriter Will Collins keeps bringing darker elements into the film, and this might lead to some viewers wondering when the boys will find happiness.

Griffin is the standout of the film, playing the youngest brother Scwally. With his makeshift cape thrown over his shoulder and his sorrowful eyes, he makes it clear that this little boy knows more about what is going on around him than others think. When life gets a little too hard, he reaches for his homemade lightsaber and retreats into the fictional world he has created in his mind. One look at his small face with death hanging over his head and some viewers might need to reach for a tissue.

Creed is another highlight of the film. Though his only previous acting experience came in the form of short films, he carries "My Brothers" on his shoulders. He can sometimes look a little older than the teenager he portrays, but his look helps to show that the young man has experienced more than he should have over the years. Courtney does a fantastic job in his role as well, serving as the lighthearted and sometimes comedic relief for the film. Whether he releases a fart on command or struggles to reach the gear shifter, he adds a lightness that the film desperately needs.

"My Brothers" is a dark film that could use a few additional lighter elements, but it has a strong story that anyone will enjoy. Nearly everyone has lost someone important to them, and this film will remind viewers that different people handle life-changing events in different ways. Fraser directs a strong script from Collins, creating a story that will leave many in the audience wiping away tears.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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