21 July 2007 | Buddy-51
touching tale, if just a bit rough around the edges
Isaiah Morton is a not-very-promising, aspiring standup comic who lives in Brooklyn with his developmentally disabled brother, James, whom he has been taking care of ever since the death of their mother a number of years back. Even though he is totally devoted to his younger sibling, Isaiah has recently come to resent the burden James places on his life. Desperate for money, Isaiah foolishly agrees to pull a job for a local gangster, an act that sets into motion a series of events that may well spell the end for both Isaiah and his brother.
With its somewhat meandering narrative structure, "My Brother," written and directed by Anthony Lover, may not always feel as fully formed or thought-out as we would like our movies to be, but its heart is definitely in the right place and it does an effective job exploring the complications and complexities inherent in human relationships. In fact, it may well be this LACK of sophistication and slickness that makes the movie feel less contrived and more convincing in the long run. For instance, Isaiah's brief flirtation with a white woman he meets at a party is intriguing precisely because it doesn't in any way enhance the story or advance the plot. It simply feels like a scene ripped from his life, a nice piece of reality tossed into the mix to make the movie more authentic.
Moreover, there are earnest, heartfelt performances by Nashawn Kearse ("Desperate Housewives"), Vanessa Williams, Christopher Scott, Rodney Henry, Donovan Jennings and even Oscar-winner Tatum O'Neal in key roles.
The best scenes are those set in the past, in which a terminally ill single mother (the lovely Williams) struggles against tremendous odds to instill character and values into her two young boys, values they will desperately need if they are to survive and thrive in a world marked by poverty, racism and prejudice. The movie does veer towards the sentimental at times, but it earns its emotions honestly and forthrightly. And even though the crime drama scenes may not always be entirely convincing, it is as a family drama and a tale of total unconditional love that "My Brother" ultimately touches the heart.
Incidentally, as a companion piece to this film, check out "Two Brothers," a documentary that focuses on Scott and Jennings, both young actors with Down Syndrome, and their very powerful work in "My Brother."