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Review: “My Brothers,” quirky (Irish) family road trip.

Review: “My Brothers,” quirky (Irish) family road trip. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

“My Brothers” is the directorial debut of Paul Fraser, who’s co-written several of Shane Meadows’ films, from “TwentyFourSeven” to “Somers Town.” Watching it, I felt a renew appreciation for Meadows’ dexterity with material that flirts with but generally (and magically) avoids taxing sentimentality. “My Brothers,” alas, has no such miraculous delicacy, and takes regular dips into bathos — its premise, of three brothers who go on an impromptu road trip to replace their dying father’s broken watch, makes that practically unavoidable. The problem isn’t a lack of sincere emotion — the specifics of the late ’80s Irish setting made it clear before ever checking that the story was informed by aspects of writer William Collins’ youth — but the scaffolding that surrounds and eventually obscures it.

The brothers are 17-year-old Noel, 11-year-old Paudie and seven-year-old Scwally, played by Timmy Creed, Paul Courtney and TJ Griffin, all essentially newcomers. The watch is a cheap but treasured digital one that’s crushed, along with Noel’s wrist, by a schoolyard bully. Noel gets it into his head that he’ll borrow his boss’ rickety bread delivery van for the weekend in order to get a new one, but with his injury, he needs help shifting gears, and so he recruits Paudie. And because Scwally sees them, he ends up tagging along as well for what turns into a nearly two-day picaresque ordeal of car breakdowns, creepy pedophiles, kindly pub owners, schoolgirl sports teams and one beached whale.

04222010_mybrothers2.jpgHow children process grief is difficult but potentially rich territory, particularly over the different levels of maturity represented by Scwally, who scarcely comprehends, Paudie, who’s starting to, and who’s boisterous and faster to anger, and Noel, who’s been dragged into adulthood early by all his added responsibilities. And there are glimpses of something genuine and complicated there, from Paudie and Scwally sitting blithely on the edge of their dying dad’s bed to watch his TV to Noel’s diary, in which he’s always scribbling, and in which it turns out he speculates that the burdens of working his “shit job” in order to support the family weighed his father down.

But the journey, heavily seasoned with music queues and episodic digressions, feels purposeless, even before we learn that the boys are headed to a seedy seaside town in which the family once vacationed in order to try to win the replacement watch from a claw vending machine at the arcade. At that point, all “they’re not acting rationally because they’re sad” or “they’d all just like to forget their problems for a while” or “they’re young and not thinking things through” rationalizations were, for me, rendered moot — they left their mother alone to tend to her dying husband without telling her where they were headed, for that? That’s the kind of contrivance that would shame the worst stereotype of a Sundance movie, and that’s saying something.

“My Brothers” is currently without U.S. distribution.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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