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New Release Review - THE BROTHER

A young man attempts to escape his family's arms dealing business.






Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Ryan Bonder

Starring: Tygh Runyan, Anthony Head, Belinda Stewart-Wilson, Jed Rees, Noemi Merlant, Michael Culkin



This is a crime thriller that rings true; I’d prefer to be spending time with these eloquent psychopaths than the usual cartoony scrotes haunting the lower reaches of Netflix’s ‘British Crime Drama’ selection.


There are no geezers in Ryan Bonder’s low key, London set crime drama The Brother. No cockney chancers cutting each other’s boats up over some Harry Worth (turf), no grass in the park or a shady East End boozer; the gangsters in The Brother play virtuoso piano, sculpt art instalments of variegated birds from folding paper, and are more shares and stock than Lock Stock. But that isn’t to say The Brother’s poshos are not privy to the same time honoured criminal complications as their grubby brethren across the river. The thrill of the illicit, the pull of violence and insistent family obligations are all lingering pressures that irresolute lead character Adam Diamond (Tygh Runyan) finds himself under as he attempts to forge a future for himself in the classy bohemia of Milbank, and leave behind the family business of arms dealing.


Adam spends his day working the cloakroom of the Tate and wandering the Southbank during his lunchtimes (the local flavour of The Brother is as palpable and distinct as an icy glass of London gin), while his evenings are spent working on art projects which seem doomed to never see the soft lights of the gallery. Runyan plays Adam with hunched shoulders and an inscrutable expression, all internalised regret and foreboding. Still haunted by visions of a child he accidentally killed while on a job with his more impetuous brother Eli (Jed Rees) and aloof father (Anthony Head), Adam knows it’s only a matter of time before his past catches up with him. And sure enough, fate falls in the appealing form of femme fatale Tabitha (played with plummy perfection by Belinda Stewart-Wilson, surely one of the most beautiful women on the planet: the temptation is clear), and the inevitable arrival of Eli.


Atonement is offered by Claire (NoĆ©mie Merlant), a willowy ballerina who represents Adam’s chance at a ‘life less complicated’. In a neat, expressive duality, Claire is deaf, but dances expertly to music she can never hear, while Adam creates visual art in an attempt to redeem a past which is inescapable. As vulnerable as Adam is tarnished, Claire was even deafened by an explosion from the sort of merchandise that the family Diamond deal in. Plot-wise, then, there’s no prizes for guessing where all of this is heading… However, like the well-tailored big time crooks it depicts, Bonder’s film has style in abundance. Uplifting strings segue to expertly curated Northern Soul on the soundtrack, and the iconography is all satin sheets, wooden floors and whisky that comes in expensively heavy tumblers. This is a crime thriller that rings true; discomfiting as it may seem, it’s probably more likely that the heads of an international gun smuggling organisation would be educated and astute sophisticates rather than typically irrational thugs. Either way, I’d prefer to be spending time with these eloquent psychopaths than the usual cartoony scrotes haunting the lower reaches of Netflix’s ‘British Crime Drama’ selection.


And they are psychopathic too. Amid the compulsory family commitments and liabilities, there is the fact that Adam is really good at violence, and, what’s more, that he likes it too (he’s pretty nifty with a nailgun: that’s one piano playing thug who won’t be tinkling the ivories again). Is Adam in blood stepped so far, or is violence in his nature? The ostensible reasons for Adam falling back into the fold involve his father’s increasing dementia and the usual catch-22 familial mandates, but I would have liked to have seen more of that hint of a glint in Adam’s eye when he does commit brutality, when he does get involved. The soap operatics of family and romance take precedence, but the more unique suggestions of Adam’s personality remain unexplored. The excitement of violence, the addictive glamour of criminality, these themes are alluded to in the film, but, ultimately, The Brother opts to keep it all in the family.

The Brother is in cinemas September 16th.




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