Franco is an elderly man living in cozy tranquility with his sweet, loving wife Margherita. But one day, their picture of domestic bliss and harmony is interrupted by a knock on the door. It’s Franco’s brother, Vittorio, with whom Franco hasn’t talked in years.
The arrival of an estranged brother disturbs Franco’s peace. And when the two brothers sit down to talk, the conflict is still there. But just as the two seem to find a bridge between their differences, Vittorio reveals something that will shake up Franco’s existence forever.
Written and directed by Vanja Victor Kabir Tognola, this short family dramedy has the cozy, intimately warm look of many films of its genre, with its pleasantly cluttered setting and its warmly glowing lighting and color. Franco’s world is comfortable, lived-in and full of memories. But this atmosphere of placidity is disrupted with the arrival of Vittorio.
Franco is not at all happy to see his estranged brother, and the pair squabble and spar as much as ever, with acerbic wit and bitter hilarity. The skillfully written dialogue between them seethes with resentment and grievances. But it also hints at a once shared affection. And slowly, as the pair of brothers begin to share their genuine feelings beyond anger and irritation, they come to an understanding.
It’s a genuinely sweet turn in their dynamic, handled with great panache by actors Gianni Quillico and Danilo Seregni, who balance the sharp-witted comedy with the genuine hurt that underlies the conflict. When they seem to come together once again, it’s truly heart-warming to see these brothers put aside their long-running conflict, especially at their advanced ages. But Vittorio asks a seemingly off-hand question, it opens yet another battlefront — one that erupts into a fresh argument that veers into unexpected territory.
“Brothers Again” ends on a twist, one that upends the world of both the characters and the film itself. To reveal more is to ruin the fun, but it uncovers a clever, more cynical underbelly to what seems to be a well-executed, beautifully rendered family dramedy. It doesn’t quite undercut the previous familial warmth, humor and sweetness: the storytelling is too thoughtfully crafted and the vulnerability too genuine to turn the narrative into satire. But it does perhaps illuminate how our very real longings for family togetherness and belonging can be an illusion that keeps us from facing the truth, however outlandish it may be.