Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a malady that has garnered a lot of attention in recent years. Many soldiers returning from the wars in the Middle East have suffered from it to one degree or another.
The new drama “Brothers” is a Cain and Able story of family conflict with PTSD as the trigger mechanism.
A remake of Susanne Bier’s outstanding 2004 Danish drama of the same name, “Brothers” is an Americanized adaptation as seen through the eyes of an Irish filmmaker, Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot”).
While dramas about the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have mostly failed to find an audience, it isn’t always because of their subject matter. In many cases, it’s because they simply weren’t that good.
While it’s unlikely that this well acted drama will be an exception to the long list of Afghan/Iraq box office failures, it’s a somber and strikingly honest look at a fracturing family.
Tobey McGuire (“Spiderman”) leads the cast as Captain Sam Cahill, a model Marine and family man. He was a football hero who married his high school sweetheart, Grace (Natalie Portman from “The Other Boleyn Girl”) and was always the pride of the family.
On the other hand, his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal from “Brokeback Mountain”) was the black sheep, an ongoing disappointment to his demanding father (Sam Shepard from “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”).
Recently released from prison, Tommy returns home in a half-hearted attempt to mend fences.
But soon afterward, Sam is sent off to Afghanistan where his helicopter crashes and all of the passengers go missing. Presumed dead, his family holds a funeral and Tommy steps up to help out Grace and her daughters.
In reality, Sam was captured and underwent a horrifying ordeal at the hands of terrorists. His escape and eventual return home sets an impending family conflict into motion.
The dialogue by screenwriter David Benihoff (“The Kite Runner”) always seems credible and the cast members create a realistic family dynamic.
All of the cast members are fine, even the two young girls (Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare) who play Sam’s precocious daughters. These are sensational juvenile performers.
The only downside to “Brothers” is that it sometimes seems more like a series of melodramatic moments than a solid narrative. Sheridan also lets the hysterics boil over, but these lapses are tempered by the ensemble’s fine work.
While flawed, “Brothers” is an admirable and potent drama. (R) Rating: ***1/2
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it