A Brother's Love
Monia Chokri is a Quebecois actress best known to international audiences for her role in Xavier Dolan’s 2012 film Laurence Anyways, and has followed her fellow Canadian to Cannes with her directorial debut. A Brother’s Love has plenty of Dolanisms, from its energetic editing style to a particular kind of Canuck ennui.
The opening scene shows a lot of promise. A tenure committee debates the merits of a dissertation on political philosophy and whether the writer should join the department. The old guard soon shifts from matters of academic import to the kind of petty grievances and micro-aggressive nonsense that regularly take place in the ivory tower, sending chills down the spine of the former philosophy grad student who removed himself from the environment because of nightmares like this. Cut to Sophia (Anne-Élisabeth Bossé), who’s been sitting there the whole time while her superiors bicker and her PhD. journey comes to a crashing halt.
Sophia’s life in the bubble of academia has left her immature and unprepared for adult life. She’s extremely close with her brother Karim (Patrick Hivon), but when he falls for his sister’s gynecologist (Évelyne Brochu), things get complicated.
Tonally, we’re meant to get a kind of droll dramedy. Unfortunately, the script lets the concept down, despite Chokri’s many directorial flourishes. Sophia’s a character we need to empathize with to overcome how startlingly self-centered she is, and that hurdle isn’t overcome particularly well. Similarly, the broad, overt elements that Chokri introduces, including an egregious ending, do little to make us fall for these characters.
Still, a few moments speak to a talent, and the highly regional touches (bless the use of a St. Viateur bagel t-shirt!) and a killer Francophilic version of a Kinks song mean that we have some things to hang onto. Sadly, A Brother’s Love comes off as underbaked, especially when the light is shone on it in the context of this major festival. As a quiet calling card, it shows promise, but like Sophia’s thesis, it’s just not up to standard, faltering compared to its peers.