Director – Daniele Luchetti
Writer – Daniele Luchetti
Starring – Elio Germano, Riccardo Scarmarcio, Angela Finocchiaro, Massimo Popolizio, Alba Rohrwacher
With the many American and British films we get in cinemas nowadays it’s nice to be reminded that other countries make great films too. An example of this is My Brother Is An Only Child, a strange mix of comedy and drama in just about equal measure resulting in a decisively refreshing and thoroughly satisfying experience.
The film tells the story of two brothers growing up in a communist family in Italy in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Similarly to the highly regarded, by your reviewer, Phillip Seymour Hoffman/Laura Linney film
The Savages, the reason this film works as well as it does is it’s perfect blend of drama and comedy. The latter takes the front seat when it comes down to it but when studied in a more general way there is a pretty equal measure of the two. It’s not the kind of comedy you normally associate with a film branded as just that but more the kind that’s “funny because it’s true”. The lead character, played brilliantly by Elio Germano, injects the light (and sometimes crude) comedic touches to the everyday situations the film showcases and the other actors are clearly playing off of him. That’s not saying that Germano is the only talent to behold here, it’s just he is clearly the lead and everyone else is there pretty much to serve his character’s purpose within the film. The type of everyday comedy that his character and just the film in general provides means that most people can find something to find funny in the film. Even though international audience members can’t relate to the time or indeed the place that the film is set in, it still has something there for all to relate to, or at least have a good chuckle with.
Besides the enthrallingly cheeky and full of life performance by Germano there is a host of excellent performances to support him. From his determined and almost single-minded brother to his rightfully complaining mother. All the characters and performances feel grounded in the real world as we watch them deal with everyday situations and even the more extravagant ones that crop up throughout the course of their lives. The film is endearing when necessary but can, at any moment, quickly change gears into something far more serious. The film gets its mix of emotions and genres completely on the spot and as a result it feels well put together and very satisfying.
The film starts off as a definite comedy, playing on real life situations and turning them into moments to chuckle at. We see Germano’s character as a younger ten year old boy, bouncing through the scenes full of radical ideas and dreams of what he wants to be. He almost purposefully defies his family’s values and their beliefs, almost acting as a rebel towards his family and his brother in particular. During an amusing scene where his brother attempts to “get those fascist ideas out of his head” he proceeds to dunk his head into a vat of water. This acts as the film’s transition of his character from a younger boy to a man. This is just one example of lots of interesting ways the film chooses to go about showing certain things that would otherwise be done in a fairly generic way.
As the runtime of the film goes on it starts to slowly morph into a more serious drama. Although there are slight comedic touches still here and there to keep the film from being depressing it still, none the less, becomes a drama as opposed to the comedy it started out as. There is a backdrop storyline of politics to the film and up until the switch to the more serious tone that’s how it remained. But the politics come more into play as the film goes and although I preferred the comedic style of the first half of the film I still appreciated the fact that politics had to come into play at some point and the way the film makes the transition is very skilfully timed. By film’s end the political aspect takes firmly hold of the reins and it’s hard to explain but it just felt right and correct.
The public film community needs a big reminder that countries other than America and the UK make movies. My Brother Is An Only Child is a fine example of European cinema that should be appreciated more by the masses. Funny, enjoyable, involving and well made are all words that apply to this film. It’s not only movie for film buffs but a film for everyone.