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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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