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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Brothers

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal star in a scene from the movie "Brothers."
Though it offers a timely exploration of the dehumanizing effects of violence and the often difficult-to-bridge gulf between combat and civilian life, the war drama "Brothers" (Lionsgate/Relativity)—director Jim Sheridan's adaptation of Susanne Bier's 2004 Danish film "Brodre"—is left flatfooted by David Benioff's cliche-ridden and simplistic script.

This is all the sadder since the fine cast—led by Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular siblings and including Sam Shepard as their Vietnam-vet dad—do their best to add intensity to the somber, seriously minded proceedings.

Yet, as soon as we see upstanding Marine Sam Cahill (Maguire) depart the domestic tranquility of the home he shares with devoted wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and young daughters Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare) to fetch his fraternal opposite, charming ne'er-do-well Tommy (Gyllenhaal), on the latter's release from a prison stint, it's a cinch that subtlety will not be this cautionary tale's secret weapon.

An apparently fatal helicopter crash during Sam's latest tour of duty in Afghanistan, to which he ships off a few days later, initiates a role reversal. Tommy's previous lifestyle, since regaining his freedom, has been that of a bar-hopping bachelor. He nonetheless takes easily to his new role as Grace's substitute companion and caregiver to the kids, and he gradually matures from family black sheep to would-be family man.

Sam, meanwhile, who survived the accident only to be taken prisoner by the Taliban, suffers a horrifying moral breakdown during his captivity that threatens to haunt him for life.

Though Tommy and Grace, sincerely believing Sam to be lost, find their feelings for each other increasingly conflicted, they generally manage to exercise physical restraint, except for a moment when their prudence is undermined by a combination of beer and marijuana.

This comes soon after one of the plot's moral highlights when, as part of the turnaround in his outlook, Tommy approaches the victim of the robbery for which he was imprisoned to seek her forgiveness. His description of her relief at being assured that she need no longer fear him powerfully conveys the healing effect which such an encounter can accomplish.

Sam's path to reconciliation, though more perilous and more onerous, suggests, at least in a secular context, the value of confession, communication and vulnerable openness to the emotional support of loved ones.

The film contains sporadic intense violence, including torture; drug use, adultery and suicide themes; a few uses of profanity and frequent rough and some crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

******
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

Your Imperfect Holy Family

 
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