Nominated for three IFTAS and doing very well on the international festival circuit, My Brothers is hitting Irish cinemas from 17 August. With a cast and crew largely composed of first timers, it’s an impressively polished comedy-drama with all the necessary ingredients such as a good script, good actors and a memorable soundtrack.
When his terminally ill father’s watch is broken in a tussle with the school bully, seventeen year-old Noel (Timmy Creed) sets out on a mission to replace the watch, a keepsake from better times with his father. Like all brothers though, Noel cannot remove himself from routine family life without his two younger brothers Paudie (Paul Courtney), eleven, and Scwally (TJ Griffin), seven, noticing. The three boys set off for the seaside town of Ballybunion in their home county Cork, borrowing Noel’s boss’s bread van for the secret trip.
Of course the trip is about so much more than replacing a Casio watch. While Noel desperately wants to be free of small town life and the great responsibilities he faces as the eldest son, his decision to go to Ballybunion to try to win an identical Casio watch in the amusement park harks back to his childhood memories. As the trip progresses Noel’s ulterior motives become clearer, even to Noel himself. It is a pilgrimage of sorts in homage to the father, as Noel brings the younger boys to all the places his father once brought them on holiday. Though he has been wrestling with the responsibilities he must face, he progressively becomes more guardian-like towards the two boys.
Set in 1987 and filmed completely in Cork, My Brothers has many a memory lane moment in it, when Ireland seemed smaller and more remote, and tape recorders were still used. The three boys share an authentic bond on screen, attesting to the idea that child actors are often far more believable than their adult counterparts. Oftentimes the comedy is deeply entwined with the drama. One small example of this is when Scwally gets sick after eating too many Halloween treats. In a startling comparison that only a young child could make he exclaims that this must be how their father feels all the time. He then goes on to ask if he can start eating all over again if he throws up all his sweets.
While Scwally is the sweet innocent, Noel and Paudie frequently clash due to their more heightened awareness of their situation. In spite of his jaunty, tough exterior Paudie’s vulnerability and fear of abandonment are glaringly obvious. The contention between him and Noel comes to a head when Paudie steals Noel’s writing copy as a joke and reads it aloud to a field of young camogie players. The joke turns sour once Paudie realises how serious the subject matter of Noel’s diary is, and yet he cannot help but continue to read it aloud. Paudie’s worst fears are brought to the forefront as he reads about Noel’s desire to get far away from home and never let his family drag him down like they did his father, as Noel views it. The resulting confrontation and their discordant opinions of the father are realistic expressions of grief. Their brief separation and the erratic people they meet during this break allude to the loneliness found in every seemingly tight knit community once you look for it.
Watch the trailer on MEG.ie. In Irish cinemas 17 August 2012.