Brothers, a reflection

Valentines Day just passed by and there were love hearts in shop windows, flowers, beautifully packaged chocolates on offer along with many other promotions. That was under a week ago and love was meant to be all around and celebrated by sparkly eyed romantics. Love as the blue eyes smiling from the pillow next to yours, and back from the mirror when you brush past in ordinary intimate moments. The romance part as best captured by films like Love Actually and Valentine’s Day, perhaps.

Brothers was promoted as a woman torn between two men but in fact was an in depth look at all the love in your life that can break your heart even more than the blue eyes not smiling back.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire are the aforementioned brothers, Tommy and Sam, in director Jim Sheridan’s remake of a 2004 Danish film of the same name. The first, is a sloppy, drunk, careless, criminal who attempts to get his life back together. The other is an upstanding, moral, brave, courageous Captain in the US Marines with two little girls and a beautiful wife. The lack of approval and the overt contempt flow constantly towards Jake and the lifelong pattern of their lives isn’t hard to realise.

The ebb and flow of love between the brothers is mirrored by Sam’s two little girls with one remarking that everyone loves Meg (her sister) because she is lovable. What can you say to that and what characteristics make you unlovable? The story sets about to explore this in a complex interweaving of personal relationships and histories which culminate to the point where we start to watch.

One brother rejoins the family as he leaves prison and the other leaves the family to go to war. The filming is flawless and the story unravels so easily that you could be stepping into someone’s home rather than deciphering the lives of fictional characters.

In fact we do step into their home, with the story taking place between the house of Sam and his family, the empty shell of Tommy’s motel room and Afghanistan which Sam also calls home.

I cried throughout although there was little manipulative tugging of the heartstrings. Much of it was an understated glance at people getting on with their lives. The sad part was watching it happen to someone held prisoner and tortured or while watching a woman grieve over the death of her husband. The movie was split between the two brothers and the ease and ordinariness of getting things back on track on one side was balanced with the tense intensity of Sam’s attempt to just hang on and survive.

I thought the movie was gripping but it did feel a bit rushed and Americanised towards the end. Layers of love and reality were touched on and traced throughout the 105 minutes and it seemed to be about all the days that follow the initial mesmerising glances. The theme was more about perseverance than enthusiasm and celebration but then so is love, isn’t it?

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