Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tribeca ’10: My Brothers

With three films in the festival, Don Wycherley must be Mr. Tribeca 2010. Evidently, he appeared as a henchman in Neil Jordan’s Ondine and took a more memorable comedic turn as a slightly demented policeman in John and Kieran Carney’s Zonad. Yet, it is his relatively small but pivotal role as the dying father in Paul Fraser’s My Brothers that will leave the strongest impression of the actor during the Tribeca Film Festival.

Noel’s father is dying. There is nothing to be done, except keeping him comfortable during his agonizing decline. However, when the beloved watch his father won in an arcade game is destroyed through his actions in a humiliating chain of events, Noel sets off to the resort village to replace it. Hoping to sneak out with his employers decrepit van, Noel has to take along his two younger brothers, in order to ensure their silence.

What follows must be the most tragic, mournful road movie you would ever hope to see. As played by Timmy Creed, Noel is a genuinely earnest and responsible a young man. In contrast, his younger brothers, Paudie and Scwally, are not simply immature. They are aggressively irritating throughout the film. However, Wycherley is quite touching as his Da, seen either in impressionistic flashbacks, or ravaged by feverish pain as the inevitable approaches.

Despite the occasional slapstick element, Brothers is as far from a quirky feel-good comedy as a film can get. It evens throws in an encounter with a sexual predator late in the film, just to make sure the audience is suitably depressed for the expected heartbreak to come. Good times all around.

Creed’s likable screen presence has an unassuming power that mercifully gives the audience something to grab onto. Paul Courtney and TJ Griffin are at least convincingly bratty as his brothers, but a little of them goes an awful long way. Regardless, Fraser’s unremittingly dour mood gets to be a bit much.

Achingly well intentioned, Brothers features a star making turn from newcomer Creed and impressively evocative work from Wycherley (the new Colm Meaney, appearing in nearly every prospective Irish cinematic import) in a role almost with dialogue per se. Yet the dreariness and predictability of its story are serious drawbacks. It screens again this Friday (4/30) during the Tribeca Film Festival.