Talking Movies

August 17, 2012

My Brothers

Accomplished screenwriter Paul Fraser makes his understated directorial debut with a touching movie about three brothers on a sombre but absurdist road trip around Cork.

At the age of 17 aspiring writer Noel (Timmy Creed) is already weighed down by responsibility; taking over the dawn bread-run job from his father (Don Wycherley), who lies in bed slowly dying of lung cancer. When Noel steals his father’s watch to wear himself, a moment every bit as painful to watch as Hal taking the crown from the ailing Henry IV, he soon finds himself surreptitiously driving to Ballybunnion over the 1987 Halloween weekend to get a replacement from the arcade game where the original was won. Noel, however, has to make the trip not only with a bread-van with a comically obstinate door but with the unwelcome company of his younger brothers Paudie (Paul Courtney) and Scwally (TJ Griffin) after Scwally threatens to tell on him to their mother (Kate Ashfield).Breakdowns mechanical and emotional await them…

It’s displayed prominently on the posters but oddly enough the original soundtrack of acoustic guitars from Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody and his producer Jacknife Lee is intrusive and inconsequential. This film is all about the writing, and Will Collins’ IFTA-nominated script is remarkably adept at recreating a real 1980s Irish childhood without getting at all sentimental about it. If you remember RTE’s special 3-D movie presentation you’ll nod in recognition at Scwally’s eagerness to get the coloured glasses and be in front of a TV in time, but you’ll also wince in recognition at the calculated cruelty of Paudie in taking cereal toys Scwally wants because Scwally wants them. Producers Rob Walpole and Rebecca O’Flanagan premiered this film at Tribeca and despite being filmed entirely in Cork it’s a film with universally resonant characters, not least burdened hero Noel.

Timmy Creed is remarkable as Noel. He has the ability to switch from pragmatic adult to awkward teenager depending on where the scene finds Noel’s oscillating self-confidence. Griffin is charming as the enthusiastic 7 year-old Scwally, wielding a light-sabre despite never having seen Star Wars, and delighted to stow away with his big brothers but hurt by their pranks. Courtney gives the most difficult performance as his Paudie is a deeply obnoxious 12 year-old that we only slowly warm to. These three young actors carry the film as due to van trouble they are constantly the only characters onscreen; apart from a sequence with the great Sarah Greene as a publican who welcomes them, and a deeply unnerving encounter with a passing motorist that is one of the few missteps of the movie tonally in its rewriting of the past.

Fraser has written several Shane Meadows films and he and his screenwriter Collins, both being one of three brothers, succeed in their primary aim here – this feels utterly real.

3/5

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