My Brother Tom (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/11/2001

Three out of five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Highly odd British film, well acted by a young cast and very disturbing – a sort of British ‘Dogme’ film.

My Brother Tom received some very positive buzz when it premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival earlier this year, not least for its two impressive central performances by newcomers Ben Whishaw and Jenna Harrison.

Harrison plays Jessica (or ‘Stressica’, as her oblivious parents jokingly nickname her), a young girl whose 16th birthday coming-of-age celebrations are ruined when she’s abused by her overly friendly next-door-neighbour, who also happens to be her teacher.

As she withdraws into herself, she strikes up a weirdly intense relationship with Tom (Whishaw), a troubled local boy who spends most of his time in the woods. As Jessica finds herself drawn deeper into Tom’s fantasy world, she also discovers that Tom has his own secrets.

Dom Rotheroe’s debut is uncomfortable to watch at times, but is nonetheless an assured piece of work, aided considerably by Robby Muller’s hand-held camerawork. This gives the film a particular air of uncomfortable intimacy that is comparable to the Dogme films such as Festen and The Idiots.

The performances are astonishing – Whishaw does well with what is an obviously difficult role (you’re never quite sure just how disturbed Tom is meant to be), but Harrison is a real star in the making, delivering an impressively mature performance that should stand her in good stead for the future.

The atmosphere of the film is incredibly intense at times and both Whishaw and Harrison seem to spend a large amount of the film naked. However, instead of being a cheap exploitational ploy, the effect is genuinely unsettling, because it makes them seem as if they’re regressing to primal behaviour. The performances are unquestionably brave here, and it’s to Rotheroe’s credit that he pulls it off.

In short, then, this an assured debut and is worth seeing for the intensity of the performances, but be prepared to feel uncomfortable at times.

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Content updated: 22/10/2017 12:38

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