A Brother’s Love (La femme de mon frère)
This smug, unfunny film trades on exhausted stereotypes and exhaustingly drawn-out comedy. There’s an advert for a betting company with the erstwhile track-and-field athlete Kriss Akabusi that resembles many of the exchanges here. And for an unfocused account of a mid-30s life crisis, it is unforgivably long at just under two hours.
Sophia (Anne-Elisabeth Bossé), a French-Canadian philosophy student, passes her viva, after which she fails to get a fixed academic position at a university. Québec stands in for Rotterdam or anywhere. She moves in with her brother Karim (Patrick Hivon), with whom she has a very close relationship. Siblings have rarely seemed so close, in fact.
Much of the funny relies on thinking Sophia is really ugly and overweight, which she isn’t. The problem is less that such humour is mean-spirited, more that the possibility of imagination must be superseded by pure delirium. That she spent the large part of the decade studying Gramsci may be more concerning, and the film reminds us of the practical uselessness of such thought while mindlessly name-dropping its proponents. “Laugh if you know the philosopher mentioned,” it seems to goad.
When Karim starts dating Sophia’s impossibly beautiful doctor Eloïse (Évelyne Brochu), an apparently platonic jealously festers. Sophia’s career and social failures entwine to produce poor mental health and fractured family relations. Eloïse is gallingly positioned as Sophia’s object of envy, as the person who signs off her abortion and as the woman who stole her brother away.
Director Monia Chokri admirably persists with the sibling patter, consisting of outrageous hypotheticals – there are innumerable “would-you-rather?” quips. Scenes are edited with a perplexing rhythm while ambitious compositions alter arguments mid-flow. Sophia’s frankness is consistently detailed. But it’s the possibility of brother-sister romance that lingers. One reason for the viewers to stay in their seats is to witness unconsummated incestuous desire. In this instance, it is the only reason.
A Brother’s Love (La femme de mon frère) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch some official clips from A Brother’s Love (La femme de mon frère) here: