Sunday, October 28, 2012
My Brother The Devil
Writes Simon Kinnear in Total Film: La Haine has been ram-raided by urban Brit flicks for so long it’s apt to finally see one of the French film’s stars, Saïd Taghmaoui, in the East London ’hood. Yet it’s a mark of writer/director Sally El Hosaini’s ambition that Taghmaoui isn’t criminal or terrorist here but something more radical: a nice guy. The only British film in competition at Sundance Festival 2012 - a winner, for its lyrical cinematography - El Hosaini’s debut follows two first generation Anglo-Egyptian siblings.
Rash (James Floyd) is the respected dealer whose ambivalence about his lifestyle leads him to Taghmaoui’s ex-gangster; Mo (Fady Elsayed) is the student who’d prefer to follow in his bro’s designer shoes. What distinguishes My Brother The Devil is El Hosaini’s maturity in avoiding faux-doc grittiness, political grandstanding or flashy glorification in favour of an intimate, closely observed character piece. The languid first half emphasises the brothers’ environment over plot beats; for all the inevitable knife fights and drug deals, it’s the quieter moments that register, and Floyd and Elsayed respond with affecting performances. El Hosaini captures everything in a swooning, summery style that gives no hint she was shooting while riots ripped apart the capital last August.
And then El Hosaini detonates a bombshell that proves both the film’s masterstroke and very nearly its downfall.