Review: ‘There Was Never a Better Brother’

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.

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.

There Was Never a Better Brother

Azerbaijan-Russia-Bulgaria

Production

An Ibrus, CPIG, Miramar production. Produced by Murad Ibragimbekov, Alexandr Shvidkoy, David Shufutinsky. Directed by Murad Ibragimbekov. Screenplay, Ibragimbekov, Pavel Finn, based on the novel by Maksud Ibragimbekov.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Ivan Gudkov; music, Alexei Aigui, editors, Tatyana Egorycheva, Svetlana Guralskaya; production designer, Anna Lazareva. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (East of the West, competing), July 6, 2011. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Sergei Puskepalis, Evgeny Tsyganov, Nino Ninidze. (Russian dialogue)

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