My Brothers and I beautifully explores the intricacies of what it means to be a family, growing up too soon, and learning to find yourself despite what others have planned for you. Director and screenplay writer Yohan Manca crafts a rich tale of the young Nour (Maël Rouin Berrandou), youngest of four brothers, and his exploration into what it means to be a man while living in the shadows of his brothers. From the setting, Southern France, to the performances, Manca manages to portray the lives these men are living with a gritty realism that you just can’t help root for them.
At the heart of this story is undoubtedly the four brothers. Nour, tasked with taking care of their comatose mother at the age of fourteen, is at the point in his life where he feels he must be able to support his family instead of being a kid. The story starts at the start of summer vacation and already, Manca highlights the two halves pulling at Nour – teenage boy eager for what summer holds and family “man” old enough to start working during the summer. Nour’s life is pretty much dictated by his three older brothers who all represent different interpretations of “manhood”. Heidi (Moncef Farfar), the next eldest after Nour, derives his manhood from selling drugs and challenging authority. He’s able to provide for his mother’s medical bills but has a growing distaste for not being able to live the life he’s always wanted. Mo (Sofian Khammes) on the other hand, is happy with the life he lives and passes his time by caring for his body in order to use it to help pay bills. He is undoubtedly the “nurturer” of the bunch and cares deeply for the well being of his brothers. Abel (Dali Benssalah) the eldest, has taken it upon himself to be the patriarch of the group in order to make sure their mother and family is cared for. He is stoic and stern with Nour which stems from the concern he feels as his brother.
The chemistry between the four actors is emotional and raw. Every interaction they have, genuine and believable. At the center is Nour who, like his brothers, cares deeply for his family but also wants to grow and explore his love of the Opera. Naturally, everyone around him views this passion as a waste of time because it’s not “real” work. However, Sarah (Judith Chemla) the Opera coach, sees something in Nour that he and his brothers can’t – potential. Potential of the man he could become and potential for the life he could choose to live.
The closest example to this film would have to be 2016’s Moonlight. Two impoverished boys have to grow up too soon and presented with lives they don’t want to live. Through the actions of strangers, their potential to grow beyond the confines of toxic masculinity is expanded upon.
Put simply, My Brothers and I is about love. Learning to love what you do, learning to love your family, and above all else, learning to love yourself.
Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), July 29, 2021. Running time: 98 min.
PRODUCTION: A Ad Vitam Distribution release of a Single Man Productions production. Producer: Julien Madon.
CREW: Director and screenplay: Yohan Manca. Story: Hédi Tillette de Clermont-Tonerre. Cinematography: Marco Graziaplena. Editing: Clémence Diard.
CAST: Maël Rouin Berrandou, Judith Chemla, Dali Benssalah, Sofian Khammes, Moncef Farfar