Brothers Suzanne Bier

Ex-Dogme 95 proponent Suzanne Bier takes on an even more questionable ideology in her follow-up to Italian for Beginners. The melodramatic story centres on two brothers: Michael (Ulrich Thomsen), a straight-up, flying-right military man, and Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who's a terminal screw-up on the edge of the law. When Michael is presumed dead after a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, Michael's wife, Sarah (Connie Nielsen), gets cosy with Jannik, only to have Michael come home shell-shocked and unable to adjust. You'd need nerves of steel to make this thing come off without embarrassing the participants, but Bier isn't up to the challenge: not only are the Danish scenes hokey in their invocation of pain, but the passages in Afghanistan are completely ridiculous, right down to the evil games of his Deer Hunter-esque captors. The film clearly wants to say something about familial rankings and the ongoing war by the "peacekeepers" or, in any event, be seen as doing so, but there's nothing here that wouldn't warm the heart of whatever Danish counterpart to Don Cherry exists. In the end, the movie is more exploitative than meditative, and it's shameless in its manipulative devices: throwing in a cold and selfish father to reject Jannik is one thing, but the ludicrous monologue in which the black sheep describes his apology to a female bank teller he once assaulted is well beyond the point of no return. Other than that, there are no surprises, no insights and no real reason for its existence, though soap opera fans will get the schlocky goods they crave. (Seville)