Brothers - movie review
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On the eve of his return to Afghanistan, Captain Sam Cahill (Toby Maguire) collects his younger brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) from prison to join in the family farewell dinner. Happily married to his high school sweetheart Grace (Natalie Portman) and the father of two bubbly girls, Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare), Sam’s life is the polar opposite to the tattooed and troubled, Tommy. Their imposing, Vietnam veteran father Hank (Sam Shepherd) takes every opportunity to emphasise this fact, while their stepmother Elsie (Mare Winningham) quietly mediates.
This carefully constructed portrait of a working class, military family is shattered when Sam’s helicopter is shot down and he is presumed dead. Wracked with grief, the Cahill’s are set adrift until Tommy takes it upon himself to renovate Grace’s broken down kitchen. Sheridan spends time studying this reconnecting and reconstructing family, before reintroducing a rescued, ghostly Sam, who is tortured by his experience in captivity.
Quite literally a kitchen sink drama, Brothers eschews the returning soldier platitudes as well as the conventional love triangle. Instead Sheridan sticks to the characters, letting the story unfold through some truly exceptional performances. Maguire is compelling as the haunted and increasingly obsessive Sam, while Gyllenhaal perfectly balances his arc from petulance to responsibility. And although a little too much is made of Grace’s beauty, Portman convinces as the young mother and grief stricken wife. However the breakout performance comes from the young Madison, who steals scene after scene from her older counterparts.
If home is where the hearth (as well as the heart) is, then the renovated kitchen provides a potent symbol at the center of Brothers. With this in place, it is unfortunate that Sheridan felt it necessary to stress the core relationship in the film’s climactic scene (just in case you missed the title). This and the rushed, all too earnest ending drain the film’s impact somewhat, but Sheridan still manages to impress with his powerful, character-driven storytelling.
Brothers opens in Australian cinemas this Thursday, March 18.
You can view the Brothers movie trailer here on TheVine.
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