The best aspect of Brothers is that it never becomes gratuitous. Every time the narrative reaches a dramatic peak, the film takes only a moment to suggest what is imminent, and then skips forward to the moments after. This could be considered cheating in other situations, but here such a technique perfectly compliments this powerful tale of repression, guilt, agony and loss.
Susanne Bier’s previous outing Open Hearts (Elsker dig for evigt) was a Dogme film, and whilst Brother is clearly not of this school, the style still strays towards the low tech, hand held jump cut style that seems so familiar to lovers of Danish film. This is the type of production where the best performed take is used in the final edit, rather than the most cinematographically accomplished take. The performances are uniformly strong, and each actor is perfectly cast. The two daughters Natalia and Camilla are wonderfully true to life, and Connie Nielsen gives a passionate performance (yet always manages to stay beautiful, even in the depths of sorrow).
The regular smattering of humour contrasts beautifully with the tragedy of Brothers, and more importantly serves as a release from the deeply saddening scenes. The titular Michael and Jannik follow opposing trajectories throughout the ordeal (and believe me, this is an ordeal), although I’m not entirely sure whether their relationship was really the crux of the story. The film does begin by focussing on their differences, by the end fraternal ties seem secondary to the story.
I wasn’t too convinced by the recurring (almost ethereal) images of sand dunes and eyes that were possibly intended as section breaks. At best these moments were inconsistent with the tone of the film, and at worst downright distracting.
Brother is a great performance-based piece that above all respects the intuitive abilities of the audience, something we see little of in mainstream Hollywood productions.Rating: