film note: My Brother the Devil

This gay-themed, London-based debut feature from Sally El Hosaini is worth a look for its cultural insights and sensitivity, as well as great performances, but the gay relationship seems forced.

My Brother the Devil
Directed by Sally El Hosaini
1h 51min, United Kingdom, 2012

There’s a constant struggle here in this luminous first feature between the demands of the genre — small-time gangs & drug dealing – and an exploration of the relationship between two brothers whose parents are Egyptian immigrants to London. Director Sally El Hosaini navigates the conflicts pretty well, establishing a strong sense of where we are – council estates comprised of mostly immigrants – and never exploiting the small-time criminal situations by judging them or sensationalizing them. The characterizations of the parents get short-changed, however, and the conflict caused by the older brother’s sexuality comes off as a plot maneuver and seems tacked on. As a result, veteran actor Saïd Taghmaoui as Rashid’s lover is under-used or just plain used, and his character hastily assembled. I’m not sure how I feel about the rather obvious avoidance of an out-and-out kiss, either.

Still, the two leads are very good — El Hosaini directs all her actors like a pro – and their rapport feels genuine. James Floyd as Rashid the older bruv smolders and Fady Elsayed is remarkably expressive and focused as the younger Mo.

A promising debut and well-worth a look.



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