I saw director Daniele Luchetti’s ”My Brother is an Only Child” at a movie theater in Rome when it first came out and I didn’t like it. The story seemed thin and I told myself that if there was a point I’d missed it. It uses the device of family dynamics to illustrate the politics and class struggles of Italy in the 60s and struck me as a sort of “Best of Youth-lite”. The Best of Youth, “La Meglio Gioventù” did the same thing, but in a 6 hour mini series and with a lot more substance.
Over the years I’ve considered that I might not have appreciated “My Brother is an Only Child” because my Italian wasn’t good enough and I knew that I should give it another chance. It, like “The Best of Youth” is the story of 2 brothers with differing personalities and political opinions and through them we experience the turmoil of the times. It, unlike “The Best of Youth” felt rushed and shallow.
Three years later I saw Luchetti’s “La Nostra Vita” , nominated for a best film in the David di Donatello competition. Most critics said that “La Nostra Vita was good but they prefered “My Brother is an Only Child”.
And so I watched it again. And again I thought that the story was thin and that if there was a point I missed it.
The acting is phenomenal – I’d forgotten about that. Elio Germano won best actor at Cannes in 2010 for his role as Accio, the fascist brother in this movie and he deserved it. The other brother, Manrico,the communinst one, was played by the super good looking Riccardo Scamarcio, the star of “Mine Vaganti“, and their mother was played by one of my all time favorite actresses, Angela Finoccchiaro (Don’t Tell). Finocchiaro is as good or better than most of the top American actresses and was genuine and eloquent in her performance.
The beginning of the movie is better than the end; Accio’s right wing politics cause touble at seminary school and his family’s exasperated with his precocious behaviour. Manrico’s politics lean the other way but we’re never really sure that he didn’t go that way, at first, anyway, just to meet women.
But as the politcal clashes heat up things sprial out of control in a confusing and not intriquing way. It was as if, in the last half hour of the film somebody said, “Oh my God we have to wrap this thing up quickly!” and didn’t want to leave anything out but sped through it through it in a frantic rush.
Maybe I’d have liked this better if I hadn’t seen “The Best of Youth” first, but I doubt it. It needed more time to develop the brothers and explain their convictions. It needed more time to convince me that there was something in their struggle that was worth investing my emotion in.
If the plot sounds good to you see “La Megio Gioventù”, The Best of Youth, instead.
Director: Daniele Luchetti
Writers: Antonio Pennacchi (novel), Daniele Luchetti
Stars: Elio Germano, Riccardo Scamarcio and Angela Finocchiaro