Every family who has a loved one in the military dreads the day they get a knock on their door saying their family member won’t be coming home.  This film takes a look at the family dynamic before and after such an event occurs.

Brothers is the story of Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), a marine, who is deployed to Afghanistan.  He leaves behind a perfect life with his wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), and their two daughters.  While serving his country, his helicopter gets shot down and along with one of his men, he’s captured by enemy forces.

Back home, Sam’s family gets the news that Sam has died.  Grace is consoled by Sam’s parents (Sam Shepard, Mare Winningham) and his brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Tommy, a troubled young man, decides to make himself a constant presence in the lives of his sister-in-law and nieces.  He wants to be a good brother and go the extra mile to help Grace in her time of need.  Loneliness and desperation get the best of the two for a brief moment, but they are determined to not let it interfere with their new found friendship.

Just when it appears that the family is moving on after the news of Sam’s death, Grace gets a phone call that changes everything.  Sam is found alive and he returns home, but he is not the same man he was when he left.  The trauma from his time in Afghanistan is significant enough that it could destroy everything he built back home.  He reunites with his family as a paranoid, restless man.

Maguire is brilliant as the tortured soldier who can’t seem to get a grasp on reality.  The emotion of the character flows so freely through Maguire, the actor.  He also lost weight to portray this role and it adds to the belief of a true prisoner of war.  Upon his return home, he just has this eeriness to him and everything he does.  The look in Maguire’s eyes as he plays this man is so heartbreaking and disturbing.

Gyllenhaal always shines in films like this, but I really hoped to get more from him and his character.  He plays the black sheep of the family and his emotions are believable, but I was left wanting more.  He has great chemistry with Portman and I’d love to see them do another film together.  Portman never disappoints and this was another one of her great performances.

The girls who played the daughters (Bailee Madison, Taylor Geare) were really great as well.  Madison had such a presence onscreen and played the hurt daughter with such finesse.  Every time I watched her, her lips were quivering and I was sucked in to everything she was saying and feeling.

I was looking forward to this film and I enjoyed it, but I expected to be blown away by more than Maguire’s performance and I wasn’t.  I found myself wishing for even more scenes with Gyllenhaal and Portman, but overall it was a solid drama.  I would absolutely recommend this film to others.