My Brothers takes place on Halloween 1987 in Ireland. Oldest son Noel (Timmy Creed), middle brother Paudie (Paul Courtney) and youngest Scwally (TJ Griffin) along with their mother (Kate Ashfield) are dealing with a gravely ill father (Don Wycherley), confined to his bed and barely coherent with death most likely to come. Noel narrates the movie's opening from his journal entries, stating "The doctors say it's not contagious, but they're wrong. It's infecting all of us." He and his mother are in a rather somber mood with Noel taking on most of the household duties, while the younger brothers "seem to carry on," joking and playing perhaps a bit too much considering the situation but a cloud still appears to be over their heads as well. Paudie enjoys playing "pull my finger" jokes while Scwally dresses up and plays with Star Wars toys.
Through home movie footage, we see that in better times the family often visited the seaside town of Ballybunion and the father acquired a Casio watch from a crane game at an arcade there, which has since been one of his most prized possessions. While talking to his bedridden father, Noel decides to take his watch and wear it to remind himself of "the dad I had before he started to slip away." (My initial reaction to his doing that was it seemed a bit too soon and that he should have let his dad keep it on himself while he was still alive.) At school, Noel gets into a fight resulting in the watch being smashed, and immediately is set on replacing it but for some reason which isn't explained, he has to go all the way back to Ballybunion, which is about a day's drive, to accomplish this. Since he does not have his own car he borrows the broken-down van used in his job delivering bread, and because his arm was hurt in the fight he asks Paudie to come along and operate the gear-shift for him. Scwally sees the two of them leaving and knowing that they're up to something, threatens to "tell" on them to their mother unless they let him come along too. And thus begins the adventure.
The three brothers travel along the Irish countryside, with Noel being mostly serious while the younger kids make jokes and annoy him. When Noel tries to listen to a music tape he's made, he finds out Scwally has erased it with a recording of himself reading stories. Paudie amuses himself by writing the words "I am wee todd did, I am sofa king wee todd did" and has his younger brother read them out loud, oblivious to how the words sound, which admittedly is a pretty good laugh. They pull over quite often as the kids have a constant need to use the restroom and one of the tires has a leak which Noel must keep re-inflating with a foot-operated pump. Nighttime comes a bit earlier than they expected with a ways still to go, so they stop at a tavern where the proprietor lets them spend the night and watch a highly-promoted 3-D movie on TV using red and blue glasses. The next day they run into a few more odd situations, including Paudie charming a girls' sports team and reading them Noel's journal.
My Brothers is certainly an enjoyable road movie, although again I was a bit confused as to why Noel found it necessary to travel so far to find a replacement watch for his father- even in a small town there might have been someplace a bit closer he could have found one, but that isn't explained here- we're just supposed to accept that this is the only way possible. It isn't clear as to why this was set in 1987 either- I had expected there to be at least a few pop songs of the time included but the only music is an acoustic guitar score by Gary Lightbody and Jacknife Lee (member and producer respectively of the group Snow Patrol), which nevertheless enhances the movie being at times melancholy and upbeat at others.
As for the main cast, the three actors are very engaging. Timmy Creed seems a bit old to pass for 17-year old Noel, but he plays it with just the right amount of sorrow from his father's situation along with optimism for his future and laughing at but sometimes being annoyed by his younger brothers' antics. Paul Courtney makes Paudie a real smart-aleck and sings a few made-up songs, and TJ Griffin plays Scwally so that he's hilarious to the audience while being convincingly annoying to Noel. There's a couple hilarious scenes where he makes noises while riding in the van that just drive the other two nuts.
Shot digitally in a 2.35 ratio and encoded on this Blu-Ray disc in AVC format, the picture is mostly in sharp focus with much detail but does show some compression artifacts during the darker scenes. Colors are rather drab in keeping with the time of year the movie takes place and the sad situation the family is in.
Audio is in 2-channel DTS HD Master Audio with adequate separation. The music score brings out a wavering pitch in the sound encoding- if you're a critical listener you'll notice it quite early in the movie, and if you don't I guess you can consider yourself lucky.
There are no subtitles included, which would have been helpful to American viewers given that the Irish accents and words are a bit difficult to understand. There are no extras or trailers on the disc either. It would have been nice to have a little bit of insight into how this movie came to be, but one must search online for that.
Though not a perfect film (again, I have to ask why in the world they had to travel so far to find a new watch?), My Brothers is ultimately an entertaining movie. The three main actors make a great team, and while the accents might make the dialogue a bit difficult for American viewers, it's still always nice to hear other variations of the English language and the roadside scenery of Ireland is something to behold as well. The movie certainly tries to convey that brotherhood is a sometimes frustrating but ultimately joyful experience, which is something I'll never know having been an only child.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.