FIN REVIEW: Haunting ‘Brother’ an exploration of masculinity and vulnerability

There’s something to be said when a film conveys meaning and a sense of empathy with characters without spelling it out.

We’ve become so used to loud, booming narrators and talky, simplified dialogue that audiences are rarely left to sit in their own complex ideals about what’s unraveling on-screen.

So it was an absolute pleasure to see a film like Brother at FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival’s opening gala. It is the perfect representation of the kind of feature that allows its audience to gain insight gradually, and never spoon-feeds.

It follows brothers Francis and Michael, who are inseparable in their childhood. As they grow up, older sibling Francis begins to stray onto a different path, leaving studious, quiet Michael often alone.

They struggle with the violence and racism they see all around them in Scarborough, Ont., and Francis longs for a way to escape the trappings of his life.

However, events beyond their control soon leave them to make decisions they never imagined they’d have to consider.

An exploration of what it is to be a man, how to protect your family, how to reconcile the mistreatment of young, Black men every day, and the idea of sensitivity as a weakness all envelop this beautiful drama.

Director Clement Virgo — who was on-hand last night in Halifax, where he’s also shot TV mini-series Book Of Negroes and feature Poor Boy’s Game — makes a visually captivating film that seamlessly jumps between time periods in the men’s lives.

The performances from Lamar Johnson (of Showtime’s Your Honor) and Aaron Pierre (from Barry Jenkins’ Underground Railroad) are evocative and full of splendid moments.

But as good as they are, it’s Emmy nominee Marsha Stephanie Blake who absolutely stuns as their hard-working, world-weary mother. It may just be the best supporting turn I’ve seen so far this year.

To see this film with an audience who were collectively overcome with wonderment was the most immersive experience I’ve had in a cinema since the 2020 COVID shutdowns.

See it as soon as you can. See it with a crowd, and become lost in Brother.

4.5/5 Stars

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