"For My Brother" (in Danish, "For Min Brors Skyld") is a full-length film that tells the story of a 17 year-old boy named Aske who is sexually abused and exploited for pornographic films by his unemployed father, Lasse. More importantly, it is the story of Aske's dedicated effort to protect his 12 year-old brother, Bastian, from a similar fate.
At the outset, let me say that this movie is not for the emotionally faint of heart or the seeker of warm "fuzzies." It is an emotionally-wrenching depiction of the all-too-real problem of familial child sex abuse. The role of Aske, age 17, is played by a winsome 22-year-old blond actor named Elias Munk-Petersen. Munk appears shirtless or fully naked repeatedly, though the frontal nudity is fleeting and his two overt sex scenes are simulated. In the context of this film, however, the nudity is hardly gratuitous for it lies at the heart of the boy's vulnerability which is nowhere more evident than the scene in which Aske is unexpectedly abused by adult males.
The movie does not lack for spectacular locations. It is shot in downtown Hillerød, Denmark, on the hilly west coast of Langeland Island, Denmark, in southern Sweden, and in the fjords of coastal Norway. Nor does the movie lack for plot, breathless drama, or emotionally-charged acting. The movie is about the very real pain suffered by sexually abused children, and the acting—especially that of Munk's Aske and Allen Karlsen's Lasse—is purely extraordinary.
You will not find a young male actor more adept at conveying fear and vulnerability than Elias Munk in the role of Aske. The terror on his tear-streaked face after he finds Bastian's underwear next to his father's bed in an empty house is purely haunting. Munk is a serious actor with New York Film School background and a healthy filmography, and he carries this film from start to finish. He's a mature 22-year-old playing a powerless and frightened 17-year-old, and he pulls it off masterfully.
As for Allan Karlsen's role as Lasse, well...you hate him. You fear him. You want him dead, although, as is typical in familial abuse cases, his kids do not. Put another way, Karlsen does a great job of acting too. I only hope he doesn't suffer the fate of Faye Dunaway who had great difficulty separating herself from her portrayal of a wire hangar-wielding Joan Crawford in "Mommy Dearest." Kudos also go to young Christopher Friis Jensen, who does a touching job in his only acting credit as younger brother Bastian, and to Oliver Bjørnholdt Spottag who plays Aske's concerned friend, Silas.
The only drawback in this movie is some questionable camera work. Much of the movie appears to be shot with a hand-held camera, and the image shakes to the point that it occasionally becomes almost dizzying. I don't understand this, because it doesn't match the quality of the plot, acting, and locations. It's not that hard to keep a subject centered with smooth camera movement, and digital image stabilization has been around for more than a decade.
I give this movie a thoughtfully-reached 8 stars. As a major full-length motion picture, it probably would be a 5 or 6, but it has the flavor of a short film and features many first-time actors. In that genre, it easily rates an 8 or 9 for its drama and emotion. With the camera work being a little spotty, I settled on an 8. (Its IMDb rating is 7.0 out of highest-ever rating of 9.3.) The acting supports these consistent ratings, and I most definitely recommend the film to anyone with the emotional armor to watch kids suffering under enormous stress. This is not a movie that leaves you as it finds you.