×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Brother and Sister

Two Argentinean acting vets strike real dramatic sparks in "Brother and Sister."

With:
With: Graciela Borges, Antonio Gasalla, Elena Lucena, Omar Nunez.

Two Argentinean acting vets strike real dramatic sparks in “Brother and Sister,” an affectionate and melancholy look at the ups and downs of the troubled relationship between two sixtysomething siblings. Like helmer Daniel Burman’s previous work, pic nails the emotional details, but despite the penetrating central perfs, little would have been lost by shedding 15 minutes. Crisply observant, heartwarming and grown-up, this is low-key, unhurried fare unlikely to stir up much interest among younger auds, but the dependable Burman retains a faithful following that should ensure the pic some merited offshore and fest play.

After having lived most of their lives apart, Susana (Graciela Borges) and Marcos (Antonio Gasalla), now both in their 60s, are reunited as their mother, Neneca (Elena Lucena), falls ill. A dapper, soft-spoken and long-suffering goldsmith, Marcos is fearful of his overwhelming, ever-theatrical and immoral sister, who makes her money through real-estate swindles and sheer force of character.

In a beautifully understated scene, Neneca dies, and the siblings decide to buy a tumbledown mansion in Uruguay, across the River Plate from Buenos Aires. Here, Marcos meets Mario (Omar Nunez), a theater director who is using the mansion to rehearse a modern version of “Oedipus Rex.” In Mario, Marcos finds a friend after a lifetime devoted to his mother. Marcos decides to take part in the play, despite his sister’s jealous attempts to keep him out of it.

Susana feels abandoned, and it quickly becomes clear that she mostly lives in a fantasy world, spending much of her time reading her neighbor’s mail. At first, Susana is entertaining if thoroughly disagreeable; later, following a failed attempt to set up a cookery business, the cracks in her emotional armor start to show and the extent of her loneliness is movingly exposed.

At the emotional heart of the film is the truth that, despite hating one another with an intensity that sometimes verges on the psychopathic, these two characters are inextricably bound together; they might as well be married, and for all intents and purposes, they are. Script is careful to avoid sentimentality until the last few minutes, when it takes an unexpected and implausible turn.

Thesps’ level of experience is clear throughout, blending neatly with an item whose dominant tone is one of practiced ease at all levels. Borges, known domestically as a diva figure, here revels in playing a character who’s a diva in her dreams. But Gasalla, a comedian with a reputation for loudness and vulgarity, here plays completely against type as the cravat-wearing, self-contained Marcos. Crucially, there’s the sense that Burman loves them both equally.

Dialogue is calibrated to reflect the comic irritability of two people who have known each other too well for too long. The script is more interested in its characters than in its plot, and the most telling moments are often the quietest, as when the siblings, exhausted at the end of a day of mutual antipathy, settle down to watch real-life diva Mirtha Legrand on TV, a symbol of escape for both of them.

References to Sophocles, in the form of the absent but dominating mother, are nicely done but rep a rare instance of the script straining for larger meaning.

Popular on Variety

Brother and Sister

Argentina

Production: An Alta Films release of a BD Cine production. (International sales: Alta Films, Madrid.) Produced by Diego Dubcovsky, Micaela Sole, Daniel Hendler. Executive producer, Lilia Scenna. Directed by Daniel Burman. Screenplay, Burman, Sergio Dubcovsky.

Crew: Camera (color), Hugo Colace; editor, Pablo Barbier; art director, Margarita Tambornino, Paulina Lopez Meyer; music, Nicolas Cota; sound (Dolby Digital), Jesica Suarez. Reviewed at Cines Princesa, Madrid, June 9, 2010. (In Karlovy Vary Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 105 MIN.

With: With: Graciela Borges, Antonio Gasalla, Elena Lucena, Omar Nunez.

More Film

  • Jon Voight'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' film

    President Trump to Award Jon Voight the National Medal of Arts

    President Trump will present actor Jon Voight, musician Allison Krauss, and mystery writer James Patterson with the national medal of arts. Voight is one of few in Hollywood who has been vocal about his support of President Trump in the past, calling him “the greatest president of this century.” The White House announced four recipients [...]

  • Zack Snyder arrives at the 2018

    'Justice League': Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder Support Release of 'Snyder Cut'

    Zack Snyder, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck have taken to social media to request that Warner Bros. release the Snyder cut of “Justice League.” Snyder, who helmed “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” and was “Justice League’s” original director, had to leave production on the film partway through after his daughter died, with Joss [...]

  • Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On?

    Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On? (Column)

    Do we choose sides when we watch “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach’s brilliant and wrenching drama of divorce? The question, on the face of it, sounds facile in a dozen ways the movie isn’t. Rarely are there winners in divorce, and there are two sides to every breakup. “Marriage Story” is a movie that reflects that [...]

  • The Letter

    IDFA: Kenyan Documentary ‘The Letter’ Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to the trailer for Kenyan documentary “The Letter,” by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow, which world premieres Nov. 23 at IDFA. The film follows a young man who travels to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she’s been accused of witchcraft. He soon discovers that the threatening letter she [...]

  • Warner Bros. Box Office

    With 'Good Liar' and 'Doctor Sleep,' Warner Bros.' Box Office Misfortunes Mount

    When Warner Bros. was crafting its 2019 slate, the studio took pains to offer more than just superhero movies. To be sure, there were lots of masked vigilantes too, but more than any of its big studio brethren, Warner Bros. was willing to take a risk on the kinds of thrillers, adult dramas, coming-of-age stories, [...]

  • Constance Wu

    Will Constance Wu Ever Watch 'Hustlers'?

    Despite her leading role, Constance Wu has never seen “Hustlers” and, spoiler alert, it’s very unlikely that she will. Wu explained why she doesn’t want to watch the film to Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” “This is crazy,” Kaling said in the beginning of the interview. “I [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    'Ford v Ferrari' Outmatches 'Charlie's Angels' at International Box Office

    Disney and 20th Century Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari” sped ahead of fellow new release, Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels,” at the international box office. Director James Mangold’s racing drama collected $21.4 million from 41 foreign markets, representing 67% of its overseas rollout. “Ford v Ferrari” also kicked off with $31 million in North America, bringing its global [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content