Twelve years after their breakout mockumentary hit “Kenny,” which followed a big-hearted plumber described as “the Dalai-Lama of Waste Management” as he touched the lives of many, brothers Shane and Clayton Jacobson are back with a very different kind of vehicle that nevertheless continues to showcase their distinctive, blue-collar sibling interplay. Though brimming with pitch-black comedy, “Brothers’ Nest” actually plays like more of an absurdist tragedy as it pits good brother against good-brother-gone-bad in a cautionary tale of longing and desperation that packs a surprisingly affecting punch.
In chilliest rural Victoria, mastermind Jeff (Clayton Jacobson, looking for all the world like a much huskier Martin Mull) and his nervous little brother Terry (Shane Jacobson) arrive early at the house in which they were raised. Ominously, they have to break in, and as they prepare for some kind of intricate crime, it is soon revealed that their plan involves murder most foul.
The target of the mission is their stepfather Rodger (Kim Gyngell), whom Jeff is convinced is about to cheat them out of an inheritance coming due following the imminent death of their cancer-stricken Mum (Lynette Curran). A complicated family history fuels Jeff’s paranoia.
Jeff, who fancies himself a well-organized criminal mastermind but only succeeds at over-complicating the simplest of plans, has given the boys the day to prepare for the deed, which proves to be a mistake: Terry grows increasingly reluctant to go through with it, and the early arrival of both the frail Rodger and Mum herself, who doesn’t let cancer or a walker get in her way, throws their far-from-best-laid plans into disarray. Sarah Snook (“Predestination”) shows up for a brief but memorable coda to the mayhem.
An early temptation to laugh at the squabbling siblings slowly yields to a feeling of yearning melancholy, as the profoundly misguided absurdity of their plan becomes evident. Credit Jaime Browne’s seditiously emotional script and the Jacobsons’ on-screen chemistry for delivering a well-placed curveball to audiences expecting something more Coen brothers-esque (though Richard Pleasance’s plaintive score seems intent on summoning Carter Burwell’s work on “Fargo”).
Once again displaying an instinctive feel for space and blocking after his work on “Kenny,” director Clayton Jacobson makes the most of the increasingly claustrophobic ranch house and its collection of vintage radios and bric-a-brac.
Having already made its international launch earlier this year at the SXSW Film Festival, “Brothers’ Nest” opens locally June 21.