Although released back in 2012, My Brother the Devil is a film that has only just been brought to my attention. I'm not even going to bother listing the awards that this film has won but, trust me, it's a pretty darn long list. This fact makes it all the more surprising that this film isn't more famous as its list of accolades is really impressive being praised for its cinematography and actors by England and Europe.
This film revolves around an Egyptian family living in Hackney with themes such as family, love and gang crime. Rash (James Floyd) is a key member of the local gang who's always got his wits about him and knows the ins and outs of making a living on the downlow in his local area. Despite being pretty good at his 'job', drug dealing and any other sort of petty crime the gang leader wants him involved in, Rash wants out. He wants a better life for his younger brother, Mo, and his family and works hard to do this. However, leaving the gang isn't as simple as walking away and things get very complicated, very quickly. Meanwhile, Mo, who idolises his older brother, is doing everything in his power to become a part of the gang that Rash is pulling away from. All he wants is for his brother to be proud of him and believing that getting in with 'boys' is the way to do it, Mo finds himself involved in the gang's activities.
With a film such as this, it can be quite easy to overplay the 'gangster', in terms of voice, language, mannerisms etc. but I was really impressed by what I would call the 'authenticity' of this film. Though the area of London I live in is nothing like Hackney, I have met quite a lot of people who talk in a similar fashion to Rash, Mo and their friends so I highly commend the actors for capturing what I imagine Hackney life is actually like. At times I thought that the supporting actors may have overplayed the gangster a little too much but the main two characters, Rash and Mo, are phenomenally good actors and they really carry the film forwards. Neither Fady Elsayed, nor James Floyd are particularly well known actors in Britain - why this is, I have no idea, because they are both so talented. If you stripped away the plot from this film it would still be worth watching just for the characters of Rash and Mo. Not only do these two actors work well on their own, but there seemed to be a real connection between the two which helped to make their brotherly relationship seem all the more real. Both characters have their own stories which run parallel alongside each other in 'My Brother the Devil', but some of the best scenes are those in which the two interact with each other.
What I loved about this film was that it was really subtle in some of its plot points. This isn't the sort of film you find yourself texting in, it's one that you pay the utmost attention to, lest you miss the smallest detail. It's the small things that make this film really good, which I guess is the case with most reality-based drama of this sort, but you're kept entertained in the build up to all the major plot crises even by something as small as Mo having a conversation with the girl next door.
This film is intense. You'll find yourself going through just about every emotion imaginable. It was pretty gruesome and violent at some points so be prepared to look away if you're not a fan of those sorts of things. Most of the time I find that extreme violence is unnecessary, but in a film such as this, you need these difficult scenes to really understand and delve into the world of these characters. There are also scenes of a sexual nature and the theme of homophobia is also addressed.
Acting and plot aside, I thought that the camera-work and soundtrack were also particularly excellent. I rarely notice cinematography and it's not the sort of thing you'd expect to be particularly amazing in a film such a this which is heavily plot driven and doesn't involve a lot scenic shots but there's just something about the way that the cinematographer captured this picture that made Hackney seem almost beautiful (a mean feat). Music always plays a massive part in films and the soundtrack to My Brother the Devil perfectly compliments the tone of the film and serves to enhance all the drama making this a real visual and sensual (not sexual) experience.
One of my first impressions of this film is that it's awfully like 'La Haine', a particularly famous French film about gang crime. There were certain scenes which seemed like they were almost identical and I don't know if this film was in any way inspired by that film or whether that was a coincidence. Anyways, if you're a fan of 'La Haine', then this is the perfect film for you.
My Brother the Devil is AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes and Video-On-Demand
Have a look at the trailer below: