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Sisters & Brothers (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 19, 2023

Sisters & Brothers


Starring Cory Monteith, Dustin Milligan, Amanda Crew, Gabrielle Miller, Benjamin Ratner, Kacey Rohl, Gabrielle Rose, Tom Scholte, Ali Liebert, Camille Sullivan, Leena Manro, Jay Brazeau, Nicola Anderson, Ben Cotton, Moneca Delain and Tyler Labine.

Screenplay by Carl Bessai.

Directed by Carl Bessai.

Distributed by Anchor Bay Home Video. 90 minutes. Rated R.

The much-too-early death of Glee star Cory Monteith, who plays a pampered movie star here, casts a tragic pall over this tiny indie drama which is being released a couple of years after its filming. I am not sure if the timing is just really bad, or if the unexpected death was the thing that brought this title back to light after a couple of years of obscurity.

Either way, the specter of Monteith's passing sadly overwhelms the quirky dynamic of this trifle of an ensemble drama about sibling relationships. Every time Monteith appears on screen, it is a reminder of a promising talent squandered to drugs (though, honestly, the character is not all that much of a stretch for him.) When Monteith is not on screen (and, like all the characters in this episodic drama, he's only onscreen about a quarter of the running time), the audience is awaiting his return, for better or worse.

Is it fair to Sisters & Brothers that it ends up being viewed through the prism of this tragic death? Undoubtedly not. However, it is noticeable that the movie is far from being good enough to distract us from that fact. Perhaps, if the four storylines here were intriguing enough, we may forget when he is not on film.

However, while taken on normal circumstances Sisters & Brothers would be a marginally intriguing if very uneven ensemble piece, now it is an intriguing if very uneven ensemble piece that is one of the final films released starring a beloved, promising new actor who died too young. It's a subtle distinction, but it is one that does the movie no favors, other than perhaps ramping up audience interest.

Sisters & Brothers is the latest film by writer/director Carl Bessai, who seems to specialize in films about familial relationships. (Previous movies include Fathers & Sons and Mothers & Daughters.)

It is not so much one film as four short intercut films about siblings amid massive squabbles.

Monteith's movie star hosts his older brother (Dustin Milligan), a failed actor-turned-philanthropist, on a tense weekend of work, parties and drinking, all the while older bro is trying to desperately network for a new charity he has in mind. However, it quickly becomes evident that the saintly brother is just grasping at a new way of getting recognition like his brother has.

Amanda Crew is a wannabe actress who shares her apartment with her bitter half-sister Camille Sullivan. However, when an obviously full-of-it "producer" (Tom Scholte) taps the actress for a road trip to Hollywood, half-sis tags along and the two bond over the realization that the filmmaker is full of it.

A loving sister (Gabrielle Miller) desperately tries to single-handedly care for her schizophrenic brother (Benjamin Ratner), even though it is destroying her life and happiness.

And finally a petulant teen (Kacey Rohl) reacts poorly when she learns that her mother (Gabrielle Rose) had an Asian daughter that she gave up for adoption (Leena Manro) long before mom had met her dad. When the adapted girl shows up and bonds with their mother, the younger girl becomes competitive for the mother's love and attention.

Despite attempts at some fiery drama, none of these stories are terribly weighty – in fact most feel like sketches. There are occasional nice touches (the much-maligned producer ends up reaching his dreams, for better or for worse), but except for the story about the schizophrenic brother, the film does not appear to have much to say. And while the acting sister's story is mildly amusing, there is little in the way of comic relief here either.

Truth is none of these sisters and brothers are overly likable or even overly interesting. There is a good film that can be made about the differences between siblings, but Sisters and Brothers does not hit the mark.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: September 13, 2013.

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