For a movie that isn’t really about anything, “My Brother is an Only Child” sure is fun to watch – at least for the first hour or so. It has all kinds of energy, which it gets mainly from some very passionate acting and some very intense editing. No establishing shots or quiet reflective moments here – the film editors rush us from one happening scene to the next. It’s a technique often used in action films, and often it makes me feel tired and overstimulated. Interesting to see it here, in a film about two brothers and their differing political views.
“My Brother is an Only Child” comes from the writers of the pretty great miniseries from a few years ago, “The Best of Youth,” and definitely has the same feel. It’s very Italian, and very interested in the look and feel of growing up Italian from the ’60s until now. The older brother is a charismatic Communist, the younger a passionate Fascist. American viewers (like myself) might want to read the Wikipedia page on those political philosophies, so we can understand why such nice young men would want to be such terrible things. The brothers attend political rallies, fight and bicker and hug and kiss, and both want a bright future for their troubled country.
At the center of it all is a beautiful woman, whom both of the brothers are in love with. She is the girlfriend of the older, better-looking one, and eventually has his child. Yet the younger one can hardly stand how his brother treats her, and clearly would like a chance to do better.
“My Brother is an Only Child” loses steam at about the same rate that the brothers lose their political idealism. The fascist brother grows weary of the violence, especially as it begins to target people he knows and cares about. The communist brother gets deeper and deeper into illegal activities, until the police are chasing him for crimes that have nothing to do with his political belief.