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Review: 'My Brother the Devil' aims too high

Writer-director Sally El Hosaini shows promise in her feature debut but can't pull together the tale of two gangster brothers.

April 04, 2013|By Mark Olsen
  • James Floyd and Fady Elsayed in "My Brother the Devil."
James Floyd and Fady Elsayed in "My Brother the Devil." (David Raedeker )

In "My Brother the Devil," two young Arab men living in London grapple with how to define themselves against the demands of family, tradition and the cross-cultural currents that pull them in multiple directions. Rashid (James Floyd) runs a gang that controls their neighborhood. Just as he starts to want out from the gangster life, his younger brother Mo (Fadi Elsayed) becomes determined to find a way in.

The film is the feature debut of writer-director Sally El Hosaini, and even though she shows a keen and sensitive eye for poetic detail, her storytelling is overmatched by her ambition. The introduction of a subplot involving Rashid's emotional entanglement with a photographer (Said Taghmaoui) never feels properly integrated into the larger story, giving the film a stop-start flow rather than a headlong drive. As well, there is often something overly literal to the film, such as the gang fight that finds a pit bull stabbed along with a young man; El Hosaini can't resist the shot of the two of them side by side, visualizing the "dog in the street" cliché.

"My Brother the Devil" is a promising debut that marks El Hosaini as a filmmaker to watch, but one still very much in the developmental stages. Floyd and Elsayed give the film a much-needed intensity, but they can't overcome El Hosaini's schematic storytelling.


"My Brother the Devil." Not rated. Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes. At the Nuart.


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