Brothers’ Nest, a world premiere at the SXSW Conference in Austin, provides a horrifying twist on getting together with the family. It is also a tour-de-force for director Clayton Jacobson (Animal Kingdom), screenwriter Jaime Browne, and composer Richard Pleasance. This Australian team takes us to the outback and plays with our sense of right and wrong.
For indie filmmakers this is one of those films that should be studied as an example of how to make a memorable project with a tiny cast and one location.
The story revolves around Jeff and Terry, two brothers, played by real life brothers, Clayton and Shane Jacobson. I hope they get along better than the brothers they played in this film. The brothers have a problem. Their mom, dying of cancer, has willed the family farm to their step-dad. They hatch a plan to resolve this inconvenience.
Writing and Direction
The Jacobsen brothers are on screen for ninety percent of the film. Two guys, and one horse named Fred, in one location, talking to one another for most of a 97-minute movie. Sounds boring. It isn’t. The dialog is a course on how to reveal backstory, character and conflicts in subtle and engaging ways. From the very first scenes we receive a hint that younger brother, Terry, may not be totally on board with big-brother Jeff’s plan.
Clayton Jacobsen brings his experience gained as a director, actor, writer, producer and almost every other job you do as a filmmaker. His credits go back to the 1980s and he has gained some awards along the way. He should win more for Brothers’ Nest.
There is no one good guy or bad guy in this story. Everyone has sinned and has character flaws. It may reveal something about you, depending on which character you end up rooting for.
As the film progresses, we eventually see through the outward masks the brothers wear. Their insecurities, their relationship with each other and their families come through as we watch them arrange an unpleasant homecoming for one of their parents.
Sometimes, even the most meticulously planned plots can go awry, and this one does, providing comic relief along the way. The one thing they didn’t take into their planning: spending all day with each other.
The Rest of the Guilt
Although not in the film for very long, the actors playing the brothers’ stepdad, mum and a person who shows up to buy the horse all deserve kudos for their acting. The step-dad, played by Kim Gyngell, has a challenging role. We see him deal with the guilt of breaking up a family and its consequences. He also must deal with the fact that he left his kids to be with this family. Their mum, played by Lynette Curran, knows she is dying and feels guilty about her past.
The only character who is not driven by guilt is the unlucky lady who shows up to buy Fred the Horse. It’s a tiny part for Sarah Snook’s character, Sandy. She drives up to a farmhouse containing a dead body and a burning car and figures out how to deal with the situation. Try that out in your acting class.
The film is billed as a comedy/drama or dark comedy. The dialog between the brothers has its moments, but it gets intense quickly and dark drama better describes it. I did, however, laugh out loud at the very last line in the film. I suspect that you will too.
The music and songs by Richard Pleasance play a large part in setting the mood. As Jeff and Terry prepare the house, the music evokes eerie, frightening or nostalgic moods. It illuminates their grief, guilt, fear and disappointments.
The song which Pleasance wrote and sings over the titles, “Prison Bound”, was harsh and dark. It made me think that Pleasance was kind of an Australian version of Johnny Cash, channeling “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” or “I Hung My Head”.
Finding This Film
The film is scheduled to be out in theaters in May. There is a teaser/trailer out on YouTube which I don’t recommend you watch. It contains a kind of misleading spoiler. You can follow the film’s progress at its website or Facebook page.
Photos from film ‘Brother’s Nest’