Miscast and unconvincing, Jim My Left Foot Sheridan’s seventh film is an English-language remake of an acclaimed Danish indie. Excerpts from Susanne Bier’s Brødre are aired in the 13-minute featurette ‘Remade In The USA’, showing how closely writer David Benioff (author of The 25th Hour and Wolverine) followed the original, and leaving the audience to wonder what, besides a well-known cast, Sheridan actually added.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Tommy, the tattooed jailbird younger brother of marine and upright family man Sam (Tobey maguire). Freed just days before Sam is deployed to Afghanistan, Tommy rehabilitates himself back into the family and starts to occupy the space left by his brother. When Sam is declared dead, Tommy and his sister-in-law, primaryschool teacher Grace (Natalie Portman), find solace in one another’s company, allowing Sheridan to cut between advert-happy montages of ice-skating in the US and Sam’s sandy hell in the Middle East. News that Sam’s alive, then, comes as quite the buzz-kill – and his post-traumatic stress only makes things worse when he arrives home.
Maguire might be older than Gyllenhaal but he doesn’t look it; he’s a squeaky teen in fatigues next to the bulked-up Donnie Darko, who was perhaps already in training for his Prince Of Persia stint. Had they swapped roles, had Portman fallen for a weed rather than a dreamboat, there might have been some intrigue. A pretty widow falls for a helpful, handsome man – is she doing anything wrong? No, but Sheridan is.
Brothers feels like a filmed play; some scenes are only missing the tumbleweed, they’re so arid. Maguire works hard but is the least likely marine captain you’ve ever seen, while Portman just wafts around being sad and peeling carrots with the window open in the middle of winter. She’s not believably maternal with her two screen daughters, while Gyllenhaal’s bad-boy act comes off like a clunky Keanu. One scene with carey mulligan has a spark to it, but it’s brief.
A second 16-minute featurette allows cast and crew to coo over the avuncular Sheridan, who holds court like he’s just been awoken in a pub with a fresh pint, but the absence of deleted scenes is odd, given there’s footage in the trailer. On the plus side, the Blu-ray transfer is crisp and bright, bringing out the best in the muted palettes. But as a disc it disappoints, even more than the movie.
Like Dawson’s Creek does The Deer Hunter – a bland take on a tragic tale.