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The Independent Critic

Ryan Mennie, Sy Pederson, Diana Stevan, Allison Camp
Michael Stevantoni
Michael Stevantoni, Diane Stevan
25 Mins.

 "The Brother" a Solid Short About Family Dynamics 
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Mark Saddler (Ryan Mennie) left home when he was 18-years-old in search of a fresh start in the big city. He's been estranged from his family for years, but makes the decision to return home when his mother (Diana Stevan) calls to inform him that his brother has passed away. While his father (Sy Pederson) isn't quite as welcoming, Mark's return home brings up old memories and loose ends, loose ends that include unresolved issues with his father and dealing with an old flame (Allison Camp).

While the story itself is familiar, director and co-writer Michael Stevantoni does a nice job of giving The Brother a voice all its own and a distinct visual style that makes you think about the film long after its closing credits have rolled by. Mennie is quite convincing as Mark, a young man who initially seems very comfortable in the life that he's created for himself yet, as the film winds through its 25-minute running time, we understand more and more what's actually not resolved inside of Mark.

Stevantoni's obvious choices, which won't be revealed here, to differentiate Mark's world are a tad obvious yet also effective. There are a couple times, as well, when the dialogue becomes just a touch histrionic such as when Mark initially arrives at the house and the inevitable father/son conflict occurs. The conflict itself feels contrived, perhaps owing as much to our having had such a limited time with these characters as there is any concern with the actual performances.

Among the supporting players, Diana Stevan is most effective as Mark's mother, a woman whose desire for family unity is obvious yet her awareness of the need to balance with everyone also apparent. Stevan embodies both a maternal warmth and a sort of world weariness that works really well with the character.

Stevantoni lenses the film himself and does so quite effectively, while Samuel L.G. Barnes' original score also keeps it low-key and enhances the film's atmosphere.

While The Brother is that kind of a film you often see at film festivals that doesn't leave the strongest impression, that doesn't mean it's not an effective film. In fact, it's refreshing to have Stevantoni opt for authenticity over unnecessary drama. If you get a chance, check it out.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic