Three male siblings — a wannabe teen poet, a flatulent fat kid and a “Star Wars”-obsessed tyke — go on a road trip through Ireland to find a cheap watch for their dying dad in “My Brothers,” a film with more nuance than any reductive description might suggest. Helming debut of Shane Meadows’ regular scripter, Paul Fraser (“Somers Town”), working from a screenplay by newbie scribe William Collins, is a low-budget coming-of-ager that finds the right balance of humor, drama and genuine pathos. Pic should do well in ancillary, with an outside chance of Euro pickups beyond the British Isles.
Sensitive Irish lad Noel (Timmy Creed), though only 17, has already taken over many of the duties of his ailing father (Don Wycherley). When his old man asks for the return of his cheap watch, which accidentally got smashed at school while Noel was wearing it, the eldest son feels the weight of responsibility fall on him, and he decides to set out on a road trip to find another watch just like it. Though not exactly planned, Noel’s cocky, heavyset middle bro, Paudie (Paul Courtney), and young Scwally (T.J. Griffin), who seeks refuge in the universe of “Star Wars” despite never having seen the films, also tag along.
In a bakery van that’s only a screeching halt away from completely falling apart, the boys set off for an arcade at a seaside resort on the other side of the country, where Dad originally got his watch. Fraternal bickering, encounters with assorted country folk (some good, some bad) and car trouble are on the somewhat predictable menu, but Williams and Fraser make sure they get the mix right, alternating broadly played comedy with more melancholy moments. The latter mainly involve Noel, who keeps a diary in which he tries to process how he feels about the many terrifying things that are happening in his life, including his father’s imminent death and a terror known to many 17-year-old boys: girls.
Fraser wisely decided to film someone else’s screenplay for his directorial debut, thus avoiding easy comparison with Shane Meadows’ direction of Fraser’s own scripts, though “My Brothers” certainly suggests the novice helmer would be just fine tackling a subject he wrote himself, especially since its overall feel is not that far off from that of “Somers Town.”
Besides demonstrating a clear talent for tone and a strong sense of rhythm, the rookie helmer coaxes terrific and wholly natural performances from the three non-pro actors playing the brothers, with Creed especially a find.
Pic was made on a tiny budget but shows no strain in any department. P.J. Dillon’s lensing firmly places the story in the verdant, eternally rainy landscapes of Ireland, while the guitar-based score, which was co-written by the lead singer of Snow Patrol, Gary Lightbody, is simple but effective.