The Sisters Brothers

Jacques Audiard, 2018

With the quality people involved in this film, you’d expect it to be good. And it is. Audiard is a deft film-maker, in whatever spoken language (this is his first film in English! I barely noticed – the language of cinema is universal).

On the surface it’s a story of a quest, a chase, as the two hitmen follow their target. It’s dryly funny and well-paced, perfect for an enjoyable evening’s entertainment. But still it manages to examine what it means to be human. At the film’s heart is this relationship between two brothers, who are endearing and a bit bumbling but actually very good at what they do. Behind their necessary swagger there are simply men, a complicated power relationship and a deep fraternal protective connection. How Joaquin Phoenix managed to sometimes reveal flashes of a vulnerable little boy in his performance as a fearsome, heartless outlaw was impressive. The relationship swings and shifts, inner thoughts are revealed, though the characters don’t quite struggle with the profound conflicts portrayed in Audiard’s finest films, The Beat My Heart Skipped and A Prophet.

I spent the whole film marvelling at the beautiful grandeur of the American landscape. Such immense spaces! Oh what mountains! All lusciously shot. Then I discovered in the end credits that it was shot in Spain. Ha! Cinema trickery. Fooled me.

And then there’s this unusual, very soft, very domestic ending. After violence and drama and death and tough man’s lives trying to make it in this big, bad world, they go home to mum (a tough woman). Here they can all stop being tough, always on guard, and just be. Sweet in an unsentimental way. Surprising. Yeah, I like this film! (And I have a new crush on Joaquin Phoenix, who just gets better with age.)

Excellent review here by Mark Kermode:

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