film note: My Brother the Devil

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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