A tale of two siblings and lots of honeybees, “There Was Never a Better Brother” is a well-worn narrative of sibling rivalry that could have used a bit more directorial derring-do than just a few incongruous shots from the p.o.v. of bees in flight. Azerbaijani scribe-helmer Murad Ibragimbekov, here adapting the eponymous work of his Russophone novelist father, Maksud, plays it rather safe, incorporating explanatory voiceover and golden-hued flashbacks into this episodic family tale set in 1970s Baku. Beyond local play, further fest screenings await.
Almost a male counterpart to the helmer’s “Three Girls,” pic stays closest to the perspective of Jahlil (Sergei Puskepalis, “How I Ended This Summer”), a meticulous post-office worker and hobby apiculturist. His loose-cannon younger brother (Evgeny Tsyganov) finally returns home from abroad, but ends up involved in shady dealings until he falls for the comely but lower-class neighbor (Nino Ninidze), much to Jahlil’s despair. Lush widescreen camerawork, visual effects and production design suggest a solid budget. Though acting is also strong, the story never truly soars until the final scene, with its effective mise-en-scene.