Justin Lo is — in descending order of competence — producer, director, editor, writer and star of debut feature “The Conrad Boys.” He should’ve hired a better actor for the lead, but then this low-budget indie would lack its vanity project raison d’etre. Blandly earnest drama of a young gay man trying to raise his little brother after they’re orphaned plays like an “After-School Special,” and as such might score minor cable exposure.
High school senior Charlie (Lo) has been accepted to Columbia U., but when his mother suddenly dies of a heart attack, he puts off college and works at a local restaurant to support 9-year-old sibling Ben (Boo-Boo Stewart), who’s grown withdrawn and nightmare-plagued since mom’s passing. Their formerly alcoholic dad (Barry Shay), who abandoned them, now returns sober and committed to re-entering his children’s lives, despite Charlie’s bitterness. Meanwhile, latter gets involved with sexy but irresponsible drifter Jordan (Nick Bartzen, persuasive in a sketchy part), whose troubled past instigates eventual silly melodramatics that nonetheless enliven tepid screenplay. While Lo’s multi-hyphenate moxie is admirable, his bad bowl-haircut, scant screen charisma and pedestrian dialogue suggest future projects should be more collaborative.