MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD (Daniele Luchetti). 108 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (June 6). For ve nues and times, see Movies, page 96. Rating: NN
Set in mid-1960s Italy, a postwar cauldron of competing political, economic and personal values, My Brother Is An Only Child is about passionate people. But director Daniele Luchetti fails to strike a genuine spark from the abundance of live wires.
Based on Antonio Pennacchi’s book Il Fasciocomunista, the film suffers from Luchetti’s ambition overload. The story hinges primarily on the relationship between two brothers, one a Communist organizer and the other a Fascist thug, who struggle to maintain a fraternal bond despite their opposing world views.
The film works best when it focuses on this sibling rivalry. Brothers Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) and Accio (Elio Germano) are more than willing to use words and fists against each other, and their macho aggression produces the film’s funniest, most satisfying scenes.
However, Luchetti complicates matters with romantic subplots that detract from the film’s momentum, while pivotal plot and character developments – Accio’s year-long exile, for example – come across almost as afterthoughts. The director’s improvisational approach also allows several scenes, particularly the political meetings, to dissolve into shouting matches devoid of emotional nuance.
By the time the film reaches its climax, its exhausting histrionics and narrative detours leave you too numb to care.