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My Brother’s Keeper (2004)

by on 2013/07/17

My Brother's Keeper (2004)


“It’s tough pretending to be something you’re not, ain’t it kid?”

* * *

School is not for everyone, I’ve sometimes realized. My Brother’s Keeper reminded me of it again.

Like the title’s brothers, I had to compete to get into university. Straight-A marks were required, yet still not enough just on their own. All told, I spent about a decade in post-secondary schools, while friends and acquaintances worked to earn ten years of money, promotions, and other advancements.

Since completing my studies, I have done about a half-dozen jobs. Not one has ever required my producing a degree, diploma, certificate, or transcript. My single favourite was retail, working in a book store, and the runners-up have been based on various extra-curricular hobbies, like writing, music, and general computer skills.

I’m not suggesting my education was a complete and utter waste – I met friends, had fun, and good marks came easily – but it also occupied a big chunk of time. It delayed my work, my earnings, home ownership, savings, and getting on with my life. It’s had little other practical impact.

All of which might explain why I found the Woods brothers’ story compelling. Eric and Lou are twins, both portrayed by Aaron Ashmore (Smallville). In their case, they rely on athletic scholarships to get them in. However, things don’t go exactly as planned. Without giving away too many twists or the promising complexity, Eric (the thinker) gets into Oakridge College, and Lou (the jock) goes to work out of high school.

You know how the story supposedly goes . . . Eric succeeds with his brain, and Lou is punished for his brawn. Right?

Nope.

Eric, having been accepted under dubious circumstances, faces immanent justice from every possible quarter. He is bullied by students and teachers alike, his relationships toxify. He faces rejection from wealthier kids, is physically beaten by athletes, is pressured into drink and narcotics, and grows distant from his family.

Lou, for his part, becomes the family’s secret saviour, providing support in a variety of ways, some obvious, and others kept secret.

Several sequences rely on the conceit of the twins being identical, wherein smaller problems are solved by switching places, thus getting the brothers into even deeper trouble. While that approach is fairly standard in stories about such characters, it wasn’t a liability in this case.

On the other hand, I disliked the plot devolving into sports cliches. To say it gets heavy-handed is putting it, well, lightly. Obvious underdogs appear too suddenly. Rock music fuels an epic training montage. Rival coaches give good-vs-evil pep talks. A voice-over tells us things like “What Dave lacked in talent, he made up for in heart” or the cringe-worthy chestnut, repeated on the poster’s tagline: “Victory isn’t always measured by the finish line.”

Now, admittedly, very few would watch a mainstream competitive movie with the expectation the protagonist(s) should lose. It only disappoints in becoming typical later on because it’s so effective in being unusual from the start. It’s certainly worth a look, whether you’re into sports or not. My Brother’s Keeper has some interesting takes on family and education, which may not be widely acknowledged, but being unconventional doesn’t make them untrue.

* * *

Not rated

94 minutes

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