FilmFilm ReviewSXSW

SXSW 2018 World Premiere: The Darkly Comic ‘Brothers’ Nest’

The new Australian film Brothers’ Nest is a cleverly constructed, bleakly humorous crime thriller that stars real-life siblings Shane and Clayton Jacobson as Terry and Jeff, brothers who concoct an allegedly foolproof scheme to murder their stepfather. The reason for the killing is clear — Jeff is certain that their terminally-ill mother will leave their home and land to her husband and they’ll get nothing.

Having spent his life as the submissive younger brother, Terry reluctantly goes along with Jeff’s plan, which is almost ridiculously elaborate. They go to the family home early in the day when no one is there to clean it from top to bottom (Jeff is a stickler about incriminating evidence). Their stepfather, Rodger (Kim Gyngell), is due to arrive later, but they’ve told everyone they’ve taken a vacation to Sydney so nobody will suspect they’re laying in wait.

Jeff has plotted everything down to the smallest detail. They arrive on bicycles so that neighbors won’t see any strange cars. To prevent any stray fibers from contaminating the crime scene, they don clean suits and hospital slippers. They make calls to relatives on cell phones that have been shipped across the country so the GPS devices will register the calls as emanating from Sydney. The ultimate goal is to make the murder look like a suicide.

‘Brothers’ Nest’ director and co-star Clayton Jacobson.

Jeff’s motivation is stronger than Terry’s. He resents having being neglected by the man when he was growing up, and blames him for his actual father’s suicide after their Mum (Lynn Cornell) walked out. His obsessiveness begin to grate on Terry, who isn’t completely convinced that Rodger deserves to die.

As they work their way through a house that’s overflowing with kitschy trinkets and antiques, old memories come to life and long-held grudges reappear. Nerves fray, and Terry eventually balks at his brother’s domineering, but Jeff responds by reminding him of how much he owes him. Just when it seems as if the argument is going to come to blows, Rodger appears. Naturally, Jeff’s plans go all to hell, and the film takes an even darker turn.

Screenwriter Jaime Browne is obviously an experienced hand at twisting the knife, and his slow-burn approach to the material is highly effective. Director of photographer Peter Falk provides noir-ish cinematography that keeps this essentially housebound film consistently interesting to look at, and the direction by co-star Clayton Jacobson (Kenny) is assured. Richard Pleasance’s low-key score and the atmospheric production design by Robert Perkins also contribute mightily to the overall feel.

This is a film that really gets under your skin. Although it won’t be revealed here, Brothers’ Nest also happens to feature one of the greatest final lines in cinematic history.

Brothers’ Nest was reviewed Mar. 11, 2018 at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in Austin, Texas.

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