After receiving a phone call about his brother Daniel’s death, Mark returns to his hometown for the first time in 17 years. Estranged from an alcoholic father (Sy Pederson) and a mother (Diana Stevan) who didn’t know how to handle him, Mark’s return is an emotional one, especially after he meets up with a former flame, Bailey (Ryan Mennie). As the circumstances of his brother’s death become more clear, Mark finds his familial ties tested once again, and must decide whether there is reconciliation to be found.
Michael Stevantoni’s short film The Brother is a study in dysfunctional family dynamics, though not overly dramatic as one could expect, considering the subject matter. Sy Pederson’s Richard has been a shitty father to both his sons, and he’s lost one to death and another who might as well be dead, considering how often they communicate, but there’s a vulnerability to Pederson’s performance that keeps his bluster from pushing the audience too far away; the humanity (eventually) shines through.
The film makes a few stylistic visual choices, most notably showing Mark’s separation from his past via imagery that is presented in black-and-white. It shows the contrast between the worlds, but also hints that, despite Mark thinking that his escape from his family was overall beneficial, his life lacks something because of it. That something could just as easily be the presence of Bailey, but I think that the separation from one’s family, no matter how justified, can’t help but change the picture.
Overall, despite The Brother hanging out on the outer edges of short film no man’s land, based on its running time, it isn’t a lesser film for it, nor does it overstay its welcome. It has a nice pace which it keeps throughout, never withering away its momentum. Sure, there’s a moment here or there where the emotions overwhelm, but that’s to be expected and, for a film that could’ve been far more melodramatic than it is, it keeps the emotions feeling realistic.
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