The Brother (2012) – By Matthew Saliba

“The Brother” is a 25-minute meditation on love, loss and how the misguided advice of a bigoted parent leads their children down paths of irrevocable pain and misery. In other words, it makes a great date flick if you happen to be dating a nihilist.

The story centers on Mark (played by Ryan Mennie, a dead ringer for former ECW wrestler Tommy Dreamer) who receives a call from his estranged mother (Diana Stevan) informing him that his brother died. When Mark returns home, albeit not without some serious hesitation, he is greeted with open arms by his mom but complete and utter derision by his father (Sy Pederson). Mark goes to the site of his brother’s grave and meets up with former flame, Bailey (Allison Camp). Together, they reminisce about the past and by doing so, Mark discovers that his brother committed suicide. If that wasn’t shocking enough, upon confronting his father about this news, Mark discovers the reason why his brother took his life, which leads to one serious dramatic finale.

“The Brother” was directed, co-written, edited and shot by Canadian filmmaker Michael Stevantoni. It is clearly a labor of love and he certainly has noble intentions. The only problem is that this film suffers from what I like to call “Sundance Syndrome.” From the character feeling like a “rat in a cage” and wanting to leave his small town behind to the alcoholic father to the former high school flame who harbors a grudge for being used for sex and little else, “The Brother” is ultimately a collection of some of the biggest clichés you’re likely to find in independent films.

That being said, a film plagued by “Sundance Syndrome” can sometimes be tolerable if the cast is strong enough to create a compelling experience for the viewer. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of this film. The acting throughout the picture is rather wooden with actors relying on obvious facials and line readings straight out of Community Theater. A strong cast is an absolute requirement if a filmmaker plans on making a film that is driven by more character interaction than plot. Director Stevantoni would have been well advised to have spent more time on the casting process.

What “The Brother” may lack in the story and acting department, it more than makes up for in the overall look of the film. Michael Stevantoni did his own cinematography and his eye for gorgeous camera composition is absolutely breathtaking. There are several static shots in this film that wouldn’t look out of place blown up and hanging on the walls of some of the most prestigious museums in the world. I particularly loved the shot with the woodpecker at the beginning of the film.
I wasn’t able to find anything online in way of official websites and the like. I did find an IMDb page for him, however, so if you’re interested in learning more about filmmaker Michael Stevantoni and some of the other films he’s made, you can click right here.