“Brothers” – 2009. Dir. Jim Sheridan

Dir. Jim Sheridan. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, Mare Winningham and Sam Shepherd.

“Why couldn’t you just stay dead?!”

I have been a HUGE fan of Jim Sheridan’s works, “My Left Foot”, “In the Name of the Father”, “The Boxer”, “The Fields”, and “In America”.  I am not a fan of his 50 Cent biopic “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” and I’m still on the fence with “Brothers”.  My friend Kevin (who is just as arrogant when it comes to film as I am) gave this film a 10 – so I owed it to myself to see it.

The film centers around a small family in a Minnesota town, Tommy (Gyllenhaal) just gets released from prison and is picked up by his brother Sam (Maguire) who is about to be sent for another tour of duty in Afghanistan.  Tensions run high in the family as the patriarch Hank (played excellently by Sam Shepherd) chastises Tommy for being a failure and not a hero like his brother.

Natalie Portman portrays Sam’s wife, and really should have gotten an Oscar nomination for her performance (let’s face it, nominations and awards DO matter).  As Sam gets sent to war, his chopper goes down and is presumed dead.  The family is torn apart and Tommy picks up the slack and takes care of Sam’s family which consists of Portman and McGuire’s two daughters.  Quick note: the two child actors that play the two daughters are absolutely phenomenal!

As time progresses Portman and Gyllenhaal form a deep emotional connection – they begin to understand each other, and essentially fall in love with one another.  The relationship doesn’t get anywhere near as physical as we think, although they do kiss in one scene; it’s more of an emotional bond.  It’s more effective that they don’t share a bed together.  As it ends up, McGuire isn’t dead!  He’s held hostage by a group of bad men in turbans and is forced to do something so unthinkable and unforgiving.  He eventually comes home and oh boy does the plot thicken!

Sam is so detached from society and his family that it’s hard for him to function properly.  This is where the film snags for me.  I think Gyllenhaal, Portman and Shepherd and excellent, they are firing on all cylinders but what really drags the movie for me is McGuire is so horribly cast.  It’s hard to play a part like that, I understand – I don’t think I’d be able too.  But it’s not my profession now is it?  Maguire runs into the pitfall of overacting.  It’s a fine line – to be able to push yourself as an actor to the edge without being to over-the-top.  I mean couldn’t Colin Farrell have played Sam instead?  He’s Irish?  He would have clicked well with Sheridan!  The one thing I do give “The Hurt Locker” credit for is Jeremy Renner was a solid rock that held the film together – Maguire isn’t.

I know that Maguire was nominated for a Golden Globe, but so was Tom Cruise for “Tropic Thunder” a few years ago.  Point made.  I really wanted to like this film, I love all the people involved.  I’m just so tired of “the war at home” films.  I think it’s a subject that is to easily misguided and cliché ridden.  I was really with this film to until the final scene and the ending voiceover narration that to me seemed absurd and absolutely contrived.

I like that fact that I’m actually in the majority for thinking this is a slightly above average film.  If you’re looking for a film that deals with the horrors of war, and bringing them home with you I wouldn’t say skip this one, but I would recommend watching “Coming Home”, “The Deer Hunter”, “Jacknife” or if you’re looking for a current one “Jarhead” or “In the Valley of Elah” instead of this.  But I do think that the one sheet that I have as the picture on my post is an excellent representation of the film, and a great looking poster.

Review: 7.5/10

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

4 thoughts on ““Brothers” – 2009. Dir. Jim Sheridan”

  1. Excellent review although I did like the movie a bit more than you did. I did think Maguire was overacting slightly but it worked out fine for me and I enjoyed his performance. It seems most people are divided over whether he was fit for the role or not.

  2. I thought you told me you bumped it to an 8? Either way, the review was well stated. The movie just struck a chord with me that it didn’t with most people. I really identified with some of the relationships, particularly the one between Shepherd and Gyllenhaal.

  3. I had the total opposite to Tobey Maguire’s part — I think he did a bang-up job. This is new territory for him, and I think he handled himself very well, particularly in his last scene with Gyllenhaal where he says “I’m drowning.”

    For me, Portman was the weak link, though through no fault of her own. Her character just didn’t feel as fleshed-out as Gyllenhaal or Maguire’s.

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