My Brother the Devil
Sally El Hosaini recently (deservedly) won the best newcomer prize at the London Film Festival for her debut feature, My Brother The Devil which she wrote and directed. Filmed on location in an East London housing estate, My Brother The Devil features amateurs alongside better known actors James Floyd, Said Taghmaoui and Fady Elsayed (also nominated for best newcomer at LFF).
A coming-of-age story set to the backdrop of a rather minor drug dealing gang, My Brother The Devil is brilliant in its normality. There are none of the ludicrous fortuitous happenings and labored plots that seem to riddle Noel Clarke’s films, to which El Hosaini’s effort will no doubt be compared. It is the smallness, realism, and new ground that El Hosaini breaks that really sets this above the pack. Rather than massive drug deals or insane villains, we are shown petty muggings with steak knives and drug dealers with slightly dated mobile phones. There is a realism here that seems to have been expurgated from all other British films dealing with the wrong side of the tracks. El Hosaini has kept the matter of the film very much grounded in reality while still telling a compelling and new story.
It’s hard to discuss the narrative of My Brother The Devil without blunting some of the film’s power. That said, the movie constantly proceeds in an unexpected direction, not through twists or silly plot devices but because it treads new ground and has a well-written movie at the core of things. Without giving anything away, My Brother The Devil approaches an issue never really dealt with in films of this ilk and does so with compassion and intelligence.
My Brother The Devil is one of the finest feature debuts for years. Unfortunately it will be compared to the films of Noel Clarke and classified in the all but dismissed “urban” genre. There is a subtlety to the fights outside an off-licence as opposed to the hyperbole of films like Harry Brown and its out of control pensioner-murdering teenagers. This is actually what happens on the streets. El Hosaini demonstrates with a magnificent degree of skill that an interesting, deep and touching story can be told in a setting of London’s poorer areas. Finally, England has an answer to La Haine.
Watch the trailer for My Brother The Devil here: