My Brother is an Only Child
There are few relationships between two people than being brothers. It is one of closeness and rivalry; love and jealousy. One of the first accounts in the Bible that is concerned with two people is that of the brothers Cain and Able. The competition between the two resulted in the fist Biblical record of murder. Rome was said to be founded by two brothers, Romulus and Remus, who were always feuding. The often turbulent relationship between brothers is still one of the most popular in film and has been since the media began. In the forties the ever popular gangster flick usually depicted two brothers, one either a District Attorney or priest and the other a criminal. One of the main reasons for this persistent favor of these stories is how recognizable they are to the audience. Now a new member of this long lineage of movies has come to DVD, ĎMy Brother was an Only Childí by Italian film maker Daniele Luchetti. It employs another favorite sub genre of film in combination with the brother theme, coming of age. The film manages to combine drama and comedy in just the perfect percentages. It comes across as a movie about growing up in an era that was marred by disruption and conflict yet never bogs the audience down too much or too often. While so many independent movies have gone over to the dark side of cheap and ultimately meaningless horror flicks it is refreshing and reassuring that there are still film makers with integrity and the talent to tell an engaging, entertaining story.
The story for the film was written by Daniele Luchetti, Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli based on the popular novel by Antonio Pennacchi. Both Petraglia and Rulli have a long list of writing credits and are well regarded in the Italian film community. They have both penned stories that span the film genres and bring a lot of experience to the table here. Both men have also had their hand in direction and are able to understand the difference between writing a script and brining to life on the screen. Luchetti is one of the hottest Italian writers and directors on the scene today. He has multiple film festival awards under his belt including some for the writing of this script. The setting for the story is the tumultuous period of the sixties and seventies in Italy. The political division centered on the continued rise of their fascist party and the division this caused throughout the country. This division is boiled down to the microcosm of a single family with the brothers taking opposite sides on the issues at hand. The younger of the two brothers is Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio). He makes an attempt to remove himself from the political fray by following his true calling. He is entering the seminary with the goal of becoming a priest. His older brother Accio (Elio Germano) rebels against the families core leftist inclinations by association more and more with the local right wing fascist party. Although he goes along with the party line with endeavors like a pilgrimage to the grave of Mussolini and some street level violence his heart is not really in it. Accio is not as devote to the right wing agenda and doctrine as others in the group he associates with. For him the fist fights and general mayhem are more attractive to Accio than the deep political points that ostensibly are the foundation of the party. One of the party leaders, Mario (Luca Zingaretti) wants to continue the push for their doctrine by doing whatever it takes to block the left wing influences. The affiliations of the brothers begin to chaff when Manrico begins to increasingly side with the Communist faction. He believes in the rights of the workers and social reform. He sees that his work with the church will not be enough to help people. This places him in the crosshairs of Marioís attention. This results in strain not only between the brothers but between Accio and this fascist buddies.
With two handsome young men at constant odds with each other you need a woman for them to fight over. In this particular case this part is provided by Francesca (Diane Fleri). She is the girlfriend of Manrico but, no one will see this coming, Accio has a big time crush on her. I guess that will be another reason for Manrico will not fully commit to the seminary. With Manrico now a labor organizer with a beautiful girlfriend Accio finds himself envying his younger brother, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Accio is plagued by romantic problems, most of his own making. He engages in a relationship with Mario's wife Bella (Anna Bonaiuto) and Mario is not the type of person into a rational discussion of problems. While Accio has usually gotten his way in life through sheer brute force he was never the favorite in the family. Manrico was also considered better looking, more intelligent and momís favorite son. Accio always had to stir up things to be noticed and now he has to take a stand. This is reflected with many of his choices here. He becomes a fascist more to annoy the family and show he is different from Manrico than for the expression of his political beliefs. He is attracted to Francesca more because she is with Manrico than any other reason. This drive to have what others posses also drives his relationship with Bella to some extent.
The film is so well crafted that it amazing to watch. The characters are richly drawn and fully developed. This may have many of the same elements as those old time gangster flicks that many of us grew up on but this film is far more sensitive and emotional that any of them could ever be. The way the overall conflict in the country is reflected through this family is excellent. It reduces a complex social struggle in terms of something everyone can identify with, their family. Luchetti is an economical director. Each scene, set up and shot contributes to the overall flow of the story. His eye for detail is amazing. I normally donít like hand held camera work but in this case it increases the intimacy of the production. There is a good reason he has made such a name for him in a country overflowing with artistic directors; the man has a unique style. He can tell a story like this without become mired in the art of cinema; he uses his camera in such a way that it pulls the audience into the tale.
The film is brought to DVD through the ThinkFilm branch of Image Entertainment. I never know what kind of film they will send out but I am always sure it will be unusual and well worth watching. This movie was a hit in the international film festivals and now you have an opportunity to enjoy it at home.