The levels of trickery involved in "Brothers of the Head" are monumental. Not only does the picture want you to believe the footage was ripped directly from the 1970s, but it also wants you to buy conjoined twins as frontmen for a punk rock group. Call it amazing that it actually works if you squint hard enough.
Dressed up like a documentary, "Brothers" takes a look at fictional brothers Tom (Harry Treadaway) and Barry (Luke Treadaway), conjoined twins (joined at the stomach) who were sold in their teens to a showman looking for a new musical act. As Tom was taught guitar, Barry picked up vocals, and slowly they began to flower after years of isolation. Armed with a band and gimmick, the bothers took England by storm in the moments before their debut album was released. "Brothers" is a faux documentary look at the people who shaped their lives and the footage that captured the twins and their rise to fame.
It seems poetic that after spending time documenting Terry Gilliam's successes and failures ("Lost in La Mancha"), directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe would be drawn to something like "Brothers." This is a Gilliamesque carnival ride without the overindulgent budget, and the filmmakers have learned important lessons by observing Gilliam at his most unlucky. "Brothers" isn't slick or self-conscious, but it constructs a weird fantastical journey for the audience that blurs the line between medical reality and rock fiction.
The Brothers Treadaway are the key to unlocking the picture, and these acting novices succeed at bringing forward the frustrations and intimacy of being conjoined twins. The filmmakers wisely lock onto the Treadaway eyes to center the performance, for what starts off as fear and confusion for the twins soon becomes punk confidence and decadence. The gimmick is also sold well through smalltime, but competent special effects, which the Treadaways interact with naturally; not breaking the film's lurid hold on the senses.
Using grainy film stocks and interviews with people like Ken Russell (on his doomed movie about the twins), Fulton and Pepe attain that retro feel of a splintered rock documentary. The scenes have a dangerous authenticity, and the charade doesn't easily break. The only element lacking from "Brothers" is the psychological mining of Tom and Barry. While their performance-induced birth is spotted easily, the rest of their inner thoughts are left in a void that's impossible to uncork. "Brothers of the Head" is a flashy production about unexpected punk stars, but if you go in anticipating an excavation of the central idea, and you might miss the experience.
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