Starting this weekend at the Cineplex Yonge Dundas in downtown Toronto is perhaps the year’s best feature directorial debut so far from Director Sally El Hosaini, the award winning “My Brother the Devil”. The coming of age story set in the United Kingdom is a harsh and tragic tale centered on some very strong performances and a message about finding your own way without repeating the mistakes of the past.
My Brother the Devil
Starring: James Floyd, Fady Elsayed, Said Taghmaoui
Written and directed by Sally El Hosaini
Mo (Elsayed) is a young boy growing up in a traditional Egyptian household, but beyond the front door of the family’s modest London flat is a completely different world, the streets of Hackney. The impressionable Mo idolizes his handsome and charismatic older brother Rashid (Floyd) and wants to follow in his footsteps. However, Rashid wants a different life for his little brother and will do whatever it takes to put him through college. After a tragic turn off events, Rash attempts to back out of the life altogether, while aching to be seen as a tough guy himself, Mo takes a job that unlocks a fateful turn of events and forces the brothers to confront their inner demons.
My Brother the Devil explores the gang culture now abundant in the tower blocks and low rent housing surrounding London that has become the impetus for quite a few film over the last while, but it also features heavy overtones of the Tony Kaye/Edward Norton classic American History X. minus the neo-Nazi subtext of course. Floyd infuses older brother Rash with a swagger and ease that is clearly transparent to the audience as he backs away from confrontation whenever possible, yet is enthralling to young Mo as he only sees the ‘toughness’ and respect his brother is afforded. Floyd work becomes even more impressive after the incident that changes everything as he now starts to come to grips with his entire lifestyle.
Elsayed is excellent as Mo, at times wise beyond his years while other times naïve and brash, looking to impressive whoever will watch. The film follows Mo around as he falls deeper and deeper into the lifestyle, even though the girl he likes and his entire family are desperately struggling to keep him from it. The film is contained mainly around the flats and housing of the family and the gang, which allows director El Hosaini to keep the look and feel of the film smaller and more personal, which is of great benefit of the script. This story works best when it’s the brothers trying to relate to one another. The film ends how it has to, with the violence that the pair has been skirting finally coming to roost, but the outcome is fulfilling.
Perfect counterprogramming to the big blockbuster season, My Brother the Devil is a small, satisfying film that deserves to find its audience. Resting on the backs of some very capable performances the film will leave audiences fulfilled and impressed long enough that they will continue to talk about is even as they go back in line and buy a ticket to see Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx.
4 out of 5.
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