In 1950s Australia, two young Italian brothers Angelo (Giovanni Ribisi) and Gino (Adam Garcia) are following their cultural traditions as they seek wives and a happy life in their new country. Angelo, the elder, has been trying to find a wife in Italy by correspondence without success. The local matchmaker finds him a new possibility in Southern Italy, the beautiful Rosetta (Amelia Warner), and he begrudgingly tries again – but this time, he includes a photo of his handsome younger brother, instead of himself. Rosetta is smitten and agrees, and a marriage ceremony is performed even before she gets on the boat to Melbourne. On her arrival, the situation is revealed and Rosetta is as conflicted as the two loving brothers – and nearly as much as Gino’s fiancée, Connie (Silvia de Santis).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A sweet film, cinematic honey in both its tone and its glowing images, Love’s Brother is an undemanding romantic comedy with sublime cinematography from Andrew Lesnie – his lighting and framing in every shot are mesmerising - and meticulous production design. (Dig the pub sport poster from 1957 for the Demons…)
The screenplay is a little too one dimensional for long term impact, and the direction is static rather than kinetic, but Giovanni Ribisi (almost single handedly) rescues the film from ultra-light wispiness with a performance of great subtlety and technical brilliance - not that you notice the workings. His Angelo is a haunting, melancholy character, the one that gives the story ballast; complex and endearing by its pathos.
Adam Garcia is also excellent, but has less material to work with as the decent, dashing romantic lead, while Amelia Warner looks gorgeous . . . in all her close ups. Their strong brotherly relationship tends to be pushed too hard, but it underpins the plot. The accordion is used for both playful ‘Italians having a good time’ and melancholy moods, but the orchestral work by Stephen Warbeck has a generous, fluid, languid and romantic sweep to it. Excellent, evocative locations and a sincere sense of good natured story telling help float the film on its best intentions.
Review by Louise Keller:
A delicate and delightful fable about love and destiny, Love’s Brother is timeless in its appeal of themes of brotherly love, dreams and national pride. Acclaimed for his award-winning screenplay of Shine, first time director Jan Sardi has crafted an economical screenplay that’s richly filled with observation. Sardi judges the emotional aspect perfectly: it’s poignant, understated and brimming over with good humour. The film simply reeks of charm – the story may be simple, but the complexities raised are enormous. It’s a story like this that reminds us that it just takes one (seemingly) small decision to create chaos, and how easily the compass of life’s navigation can be turned around.
Four excellent performances make the central four characters both real and endearing. The film’s heart lies in the relationship between the two brothers, and when we first meet Giovanni Ribisi’s Angelo, we can sense his pain and despair by his very body language. As he eats his soup, it’s as if he’s trying to hide his face in the bowl. Adam Garcia’s confident, charmer Gino who has made non-commitment an art form, is dashing and charismatic, and the jibing and jostling between the brothers provides some of the film’s most entertainment pleasurable moments. Ribisi and Garcia work well together, maximising every nuance, and capturing the very essence of the familiarity that family brings.
Visually, the film is superb with Andrew Lesnie’s beautiful cinematography, and Stephen Warbeck’s (Billy Elliott, Charlotte Gray) haunting, undulating music score is the barometer for our emotions. The constant enigmatic presence of Reg Mombassa’s silently brooding mural painter who brings the spirit of Italy to the bustling Melbourne café is a nice touch, and like a dynamic espresso machine that gets up a head of steam, a tangible rhythm evolves, as the distance between Italy and Australia begins to dwindle.
We first glimpse Rosetta (in a black and white photograph) at the same moment as Angelo, and the sweet simplicity of her fantasies of her imagined meeting and romance with Angelo is warmly touching. Amelia Warner (reminiscent of a young, vulnerable Catherine Zeta-Jones/Demi Moore) is exquisite as the vulnerable Rosetta, and there’s a sweet moment when Rosetta explores the contents of Gino’s wardrobe, to get to know him better. She smells his talc, touches his clothes, and when she holds up a hanger with one of his shirts, a dangling cotton sleeve drapes itself over her shoulder, as if to dance. Also impressive is Silvia De Santis, as the ever-patient Connie, who has done everything in her power to bury her original Italian heritage and win the handsome Gino’s heart.
Sardi strings out the emotional suspense until the very last minute, as the seesaw of love rises and falls. Anyone who has heard that sound of a ships departure horn, or held the curly, colourful streamers until they break, will know the feeling of the impending finality. With its satisfying conclusion that goes beyond the superficial, Love’s Brother is a gentle and sweet film to savour.
Email this article
ADAM GARCIA INTERVIEW
LOVE'S BROTHER (PG)
CAST: Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Garcia, Amelia Warner, Silvia De Santis, Barry Otto, Eleanor Bron, Reg Mombasa
PRODUCER: Jane Scott
DIRECTOR: Jan Sardi
SCRIPT: Jan Sardi
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie ACS
EDITOR: Veronika Jenet
MUSIC: Stephen Warbeck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Heath
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 1, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: August 11, 2004