The Sisters Brothers: Refreshingly new and nostalgically familiar western

What stands out first in this film is its heightened sense of formality and the power of its screenplay and word choice.
by Alan Mehanna English

3 January 2019 | 15:06

Source: by Annahar

  • by Alan Mehanna
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 3 January 2019 | 15:06

The smartest thing THE SISTERS BROTHERS does is having a very seasoned cast.

BEIRUT: When you're with a sibling or a relative, there's this sense of inescapability, a feeling of being joined together. The relationship is not a choice; it's fate, and it is blood and you can't get out of it.

This is the core of acclaimed director Jacques Audiard’s latest film THE SISTERS BROTHERS.

What stands out first in this film is its heightened sense of formality and the power of its screenplay and word choice.

It breaks the assumption that people in the West talked in these rootin’-tootin’ ways and offers a rather poetic, and close to Shakespearean tale in the US frontier.

The film is interesting because it’s a four-hander with two pairs of relationships coming closer to each other.

The first pair is the Sisters Brothers Eli, played by John C. Reilly, and Charlie, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and the second pair being John Morris, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and Hermann Kermit Warm, played by Riz Ahmed.

There isn’t any doubt that this is a stellar cast of actors to carry this two-hour film that does take its time in developing and unfolding.

In THE SISTERS BROTHERS, Hermann Kermit Warm has higher ideals for the human experience. When people ready for a change come across him, he has a magnetic effect on them; they sense that he knows things can be different in the future.

With John Morris, it's that he's seen a lot of bizarre situations in his work and he meets someone who is very good at listening and sussing things out.

Whereas Eli and Charlie are both struggling with their pasts and their bond as brothers: Eli is rigid, and formulaic in his way of life, the caretaker; and Charlie is more fiery, reckless and violent.

The obstacles that arise are not just from the characters themselves, but also from everyday struggles during that time in the US of A.

The smartest thing THE SISTERS BROTHERS does is having a very seasoned cast.

Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly, and Riz Ahmed are enough to get any cinephile, or fan of theirs to watch and stick with the film.

Visually, the film has such a high level of detail and authenticity, which contrasts with the lyrical dialogue.

It’s extremely immersive and nothing feels out of place with a color palette that is grounded in Earth tones, just enough color and not too intense.

Production Designer Michel Barthelemy goes as far as to show a prototype 19th-century flushing system.

The film is like a relaxing yet tense boat ride down a river that eventually leads to the drop-off.

Filled with rather comedic moments, and more importantly great character beats that are the sole reason for this film’s entertainment value, and it does a fine job of keep the audience engaged, but that does not come easily, for the pacing does challenge patience at times.

THE SISTERS BROTHERS is about the founding of America and what it was built on. But in a more relatable human way it's about relationships. It goes from the macro to the micro, and back.

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