Writer-director Matthew Boyd’s A Boat for My Brother carries a lot of emotional weight. I mean this in both the sense of poignancy as well as baggage. One should not be surprised by the poignancy. After all, this is a documentary about Johnnie Oberg Jr. organizing a Viking funeral for his late younger brother. This poignancy, however, is hampered by the heft of the baggage. Too often, the film comes across as a personal reckoning rather than a communal catharsis.
Technically, A Boat for My Brother is well-conceived and executed. For a short, it has many thoughtfully captured shots and is edited to deliver a strong sense of place. Furthermore, the documentary adeptly translates the emotional context of the story by offering little snippets of Oberg Jr.’s life, such as showing childhood pictures of him and his brother. All of this works wonderfully to create a sense of expectation for the viewer.
“…organizes a Viking funeral for his late younger brother.”
However, the movie never fully delivers on that expectation. In many ways, A Boat for My Brother could have been a full feature, connecting every aspect of the building of a boat with memories of the past. Instead, the film (perhaps because of time) glosses over deeper emotional connections. While Oberg Jr.’s love for his brother is apparent, the documentary is unable to find a more profound discovery. As such, reading a description of the movie is tantamount to watching it.
Still, A Boat for My Brother possesses enough heart to make it worthwhile. And undoubtedly, there is great beauty in the actions of all those involved, even if all that magnificence remains lavish only for them.
"…possesses enough heart to make it worthwhile."