July 28, 2012

Brothers of the Head (2005)

Directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. Starring Harry Treadaway ("Tom Howe"), Luke Treadaway ("Barry Howe"), Bryan Dick ("Paul Day" - 1970's), and Sean Harris ("Nick Sidney"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (IFC/Genius)
Running time: 01:33:28
Country: UK

Set in the 70's, BROTHERS OF THE HEAD sees Siamese twin brothers Barry and Tom plucked from obscurity by someone in the music industry and basically exploited when they're aligned with established musicians and subsequently form a band. Connected at the abdomen by a large piece of flesh and some crucial internal organs that would prevent them from being surgically separated, Tom (guitarist) and Barry (vocalist) go on to achieve a fair amount of success with their proto-punk band, but the question always remains as to whether they did so because of their music, their edgy approach to live performances, because they're essentially a sideshow act, or a combination of all three. BROTHERS OF THE HEAD is a rise-and-fall type of story presented in a rather unconventional manner that I'll eventually get into.

BROTHERS OF THE HEAD lets you know almost immediately that cinematic deception and narrative trickery is in the cards when we get an opening sequence that breaks the fourth wall, followed by a film that's presented in general as a mash-up of fake documentary footage, talking-head present-day interviews conducted with people who were close to the twins and are recounting their experiences, and footage from an unfinished film-within-a-film about the twins and directed by Ken Russell, who also appears in the talking-head bits as himself. And yes, it's almost as confusing as it sounds. Sure, the premise of a musical act in which Siamese twins are the centerpiece is bizarre enough, but the movie itself is taken of levels to weirdness that I wasn't expecting. However, this is my fault for not doing more research beforehand; had I known that it was written for the screen by the same man who did TIDELAND and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS to name a few, the unconventional storytelling and the unreliable narration wouldn't have been as much of a surprise.

Early in the movie it's established that Tom and Barry's mother died from complications during their birth. It's also revealed that she was expecting triplets, which is something that later comes into play during the "fall" of the story arc. Also worth noting in regards to the narrative is that the talking-head interviews are ways of moving the story along and dropping pieces of information when necessary, which, to me, was a problem. A female character eventually comes into the picture in the form of a journalist named Laura (Tania Emery, who worked with Simon Rumley on his earlier films), who initially gets close to the band with intentions of writing a piece about the exploitation of people who are physically-impaired, but she soon becomes emotionally involved, leading to a direction in the story that even Stevie Wonder can see coming.

Truth be told, as I write this, it's been over a week since I've seen the movie, and the more I distance myself from it, the less fondly I remember it. Aside from the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle (28 DAYS LATER..., 127 HOURS, etc.) and some of the performances by the actors, there wasn't much about BROTHERS OF THE HEAD that blew me away, but then again there wasn't much about it that utterly disappointed me either. It's a well made film for what it is, but - excuse the pun - I felt a huge disconnect from the twins, who I found to be pretty unlikable for the most part. For me, the movie just dragged more often that not, telling a story that I personally found to be uninteresting, especially towards the end when everything begins to fall apart for the characters, although, in hindsight, I do appreciate the attempt by the film to examine the psychological aspect of the brothers' relationship and how a certain mutation may or may not affect this.

Again, well-made for the most part, but BROTHERS OF THE HEAD generally missed the mark with me, and there isn't anything in particular that I can put a large chunk of the blame on. There's supposed to be an inherent sense of tragedy to the story, but I just didn't find it to be as impactful as it should have been. As far as the cast, twin brothers Luke and Harry Treadaway were quite good, I enjoyed Bryan Dick despite him not necessarily turning in a memorable performance (to be fair, his role doesn't exactly call for one), and it's always great to see Sean Harris turn up in something. If you're into the excessive, sexual, drug-friendly aesthetic of the 70's rock n' roll scene, or if you're just into dark movies with bizarre themes, BROTHERS OF THE HEAD is worth checking out, and I'm sure some would argue that it's a must-see, but to me it wasn't the great movie that it could have easily been.

Score: 6.5

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