screen-captureBrothers is another film that I went to having one expectation from the previews and came away with a different story altogether. Directed by Jim Sheridan (In America) and starring Toby Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, it is a remake of the Danish movie Brødre which was written and directed by Susanne Bier (After the Wedding).

This is the classic story of two brothers, one good, one not so much – or so we think. The film opens with brother Sam (Maguire) picking up brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) at the prison gates; he’s just served out his sentence for robbing a bank. Sam is a Marine Captain who is itching to redeploy to Afghanistan and is saying his goodbyes to wife and kids. Ne’er-do-well Tommy is the black-sleep of the family. Dad (Sam Shepard) is a military man, too, and is quick to show his contempt for his ex-con son. And then there is the beautiful wife Grace (Portman) who has loved Sam since high school and as her daughter reminds Uncle Tommy, “she doesn’t like you.”

Not long after Sam is gone back to war, the inevitable knock on the front door by the two officers in their dress uniforms brings the news that he is dead. Tommy tries to step up to the plate for his dead brother and is soon bonding with the kids and redoing the kitchen for his dead brother’s wife. (Thank God for that! I kept thinking, “How does she work in that kitchen?”) And soon he is bonding with Grace, too.

Only it turns out Sam isn’t dead. He’s only been held captive for months on end by some very, very bad men in Afghanistan and was forced to do a horrible thing to stay alive. This is what drives the film to its somewhat unsatisfying conclusion. Sam comes home mentally damaged by the moral abyss he has put himself in. And just like his Dad did when he came back from Nam (we later find out), he is taking it out on his family — being mean to his little girls, cold to his wife, and falsely accusing his brother of sleeping with her.

There are some really nicely done scenes in this movie. The actors are all good, but when it was over all I could think about was horrible it is that we have people who we train to kill and I can’t imagine what it must do to them when they do. Brothers is a downer, and I’m not sure what it was trying to say. I think it might have been better if they switched the brothers’ roles. I was totally wanting Grace to get together with Tommy at the end. And I am not really sure who the audience is. This definitely ain’t a chick flick.

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