Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Movie Review - My Brother the Devil

James Floyd (left) and Fady ElSayed
in "My Brother the Devil"
While watching this film, I was reminded of Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank or Hettie MacDonald's Beautiful Thing, as yet another, amazing story about troubled or impoverished youth living in London's council estates, which are government subsidized housing. Many of which are tall, high-rise buildings. It's yet another, but like the other two My Brother the Devil stands as its own thing, bold and often unafraid. It's also great how Sally El Hosaini, as a female writer-director, created a tale about brothers and brotherhood that feels so genuine and authentic, almost as if she had lived it herself. It's so emotionally resonant that it can be nothing but a personal expression from a brilliant filmmaker.

James Floyd stars as Rashid who lives with his younger brother Mo, played by Fady ElSayed, and his parents in the Hackney borough of London. His parents encourage Rashid or Rash to get a legitimate job. He does provide them with money, but they know that most of the money Rash gets is from drug dealing. Rash tries to get a legitimate job, but his prospects aren't good. Plus, his comfort in corporate Britannia seems rather low.

This wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for Mo constantly idolizing his brother. Mo is always watching Rashid. Mo does his best to follow Rash to everywhere he goes. The way that El Hosaini frames her shots of Mo, it's in a fashion that makes it clear that he is studying Rash. Mo is like a sponge absorbing his brother's behaviors and is patterning himself after Rash.

It gets to a point, however, where Rash doesn't even want to pattern himself after himself. A pivotal incident turns Rash against the life he had been living up til that incident. As with the protagonist in Simon Pearce's Shank, Rash has no one to whom to run for escape except the most unlikeliest of persons. Rash seeks shelter with a fellow Egyptian and also French man who just happens to be gay. He's more notably a photographer named Sayyid, played by Saïd Taghmaoui. Sayyid is such a breeze, an air of enlightenment and liberal, Parisian charm.

Mo has his own person for escape. She's Aisha, played by Letitia Wright, a young, Nigerian who reminds Mo of what family really is. Yet, Mo doesn't want to listen, but it becomes obvious to the audience that Mo's idolization of his brother is nowhere near as important as his acceptance of who his brother really is. El Hosaini's movie is a tug-of-war in that way, a tug-of-war between perception and reality, perfect when taking on issues of violence that could spring from things like street gangs or even homophobia.

The performances from James Floyd and Fady ElSayed are spot on. El Hosaini's direction showing the choices of these young men both leading up to and following the inciting incident paint a full and complete picture that is probably one of the best on brotherhood I've ever seen.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.

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