An emotional story of love, loss and family, Brother is a Canadian drama film written, produced and directed by Clement Virgo. Based on David Chariandy’s acclaimed novel of the same name, it tells the story of Francis (Aaron Pierre) and Michael (Lamar Johnson), two Black Canadian brothers, sons of Caribbean immigrants, living in the Scarborough district of Toronto, Ontario, in the early 1990s. Growing up in the heart of a rising hip-hop scene, Francis and Michael face questions of masculinity, identity and family as their lives take unexpected turns in the face of adversity and a neighbourhood gone sour.
Francis is Michael’s real guardian angel and we truly believe it. It is a crucial element to the success of this movie and both Pierre and Johnson put every ounce of their being into their performances, making us not simply see but feel their chemistry. Their characteristics are the antithesis of each other, but these opposites attract and fuse, creating a mesmerising bond to behold. A majority of the cast must also portray their characters at two very different stages in their lives – a decade apart – but it is a task that is undertaken and completed superbly.
The feature really benefits from the complex storywriting it takes from Chariandy’s novel. There is a thread of impending disaster running through the narrative and the viewer must simply wait to endure what they think may happen. Each sign of insecurity coming from the lead cast, particularly the tower of strength that is Francis, cuts deep on multiple occasions. Pierre is a powerhouse, but one with hairline fractures in his soul that begin to spread until eventually, Francis shatters into a thousand pieces. The message the cast must tell is when you grieve you grow, but the process is never simple, something shown most clearly in the performances of Johnson and the boy’s mother Ruth (Marsha Stephanie Blake).
The score, brought by Todor Kobakov, is magnificent. It’s subtle and not overpowering, capturing the tone and elements of each turn of events perfectly and creating another dimension to enjoy alongside the drama on screen. Brother is a rich tapestry of suffering with little hope, and cinematographer Guy Godfree brings these emotions to life with textured visuals and artistic flare.
As the credits roll and Nina Simone’s rendition of Jaque Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas plays, there is little solace to be taken, but the pain, the hope and the lessons learnt along the way will sit with you for a long time to come.
Brother is released in select cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 15th September 2023.
Watch the trailer for Brother here: