Brotherly Lies *
Starring: Jose Fernando, Pano Tsaklas, Mark Schwab, Jacob Betts, Robert Sean Campbell, Casey Semple
Director: Mark Schwab
In this claustrophobic drama set in a holiday home in Northern California, we meet a group of dysfunctional adults, whose lusts and insecurities climax over the course of a few days in this idyllic setting.
Lex (Tsaklas) is staying at his family's house with best friend Kenny (Fernando). The former is recovering from a recent suicide attempt, while the latter is trying to spend a summer apart from his husband. Screenwriter Shane (Betts) is staying in the summerhouse, while Lex's overbearing actor brother (Campbell) and his girlfriend (Semple) are staying too. Add their neighbour (Schwab) into the mix, who is in love with Lex, who is in love with Shane, who is in love with Kenny... and the pressure cooker is primed and ready to blow, especially with Shane writing about a family secret that Lex would much rather keep hidden.
Unfortunately, everything is just on the wrong side of polished. The location is great, but the cinematography unadventurous. The actors are fine, but the acting is bland. The narrative works, but the script is uninspiring. And the whole film is underpinned by painfully inoffensive lift-music, which makes the whole film seem painfully inconsequential.
Dramas like these were ten-a-penny in the late 90s/early 00s, reaching their zenith with American Beauty. Unities of time and place make them very theatrical and they rely on the dramatic potential of their ensemble cast's flaws and desires. Here, the characters seem blissfully unaware of how each of the others is feeling, focused solely on their individual yearnings. The love triangle - or is it a square? - is the central narrative, but it does feel somewhat pedestrian, like Byker Grove in a villa with better skin. And the big titular lie? Well it serves only as window-dressing, with its promise almost entirely unfulfilled. Instead, we watch the characters work themselves into a tizzy about this weekend-long Stockholm Syndrome and it just feels a little bit unfilfulling. Like an unexpectedly naked burrito.
UK Release: 17th June 2022 on VOD, released by Fearless