BROTHERS’ NEST

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Clayton Jacobson

Stars: Shane Jacobson, Clayton Jacobson, Kim Gyngell, Lynette Curran, Sarah Snook.

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This pitch-black comedy thriller from director Clayton Jacobson reunites him with his brother Shane for the second time since their runaway hit mockumentary Kenny way back in 2006. Since then Jacobson has also directed Shane in the comedy short film Mordy Koots. Brother’s Nest is an absurdist tragedy that pits two brothers against each other in a bizarre and twisted murder plot that goes awry. Its amoral tone is very different to the amiable Kenny and has more in common with the Coen brothers and Hitchcock.

Siblings Jeff (Clayton) and Terry (Shane) plan to murder their stepfather Rodger (Kim Gyngell) to ensure that they inherit the family home when their terminally ill mother (Lynette Curran, from A Few Less Men, etc) finally passes away. Jeff, who is bitter and paranoid and largely blames Rodger for the suicide of their father, has conceived the elaborate plan and has made meticulous preparations, including the perfect alibi for the pair. He plans to make Rodger’s death look like a suicide.

Early one morning the pair enter their childhood home, don protective clothing, masks and gloves to ensure they don’t leave any DNA traces behind. Jeff is the more obsessed of the two brothers, while the usually laid-back Terry grows more and more reluctant. The home is full of old radios and bric-a-brac, and bad memories for Jeff. His planning is overly complicated and eventually even the best laid plans begin to go awry. A power struggle develops between the two brothers that sees their loyalty towards each other tested and strained to the limit.

Jamie Brown (The Mule, The King, etc) wrote the film especially for the Jacobson brothers after he had spent a weekend on Clayton’s remote farm property, which left him feeling uneasy and vulnerable.

A taut exercise in low budget genre filmmaking, Brothers’ Nest is a tense and claustrophobic film that largely takes place inside the confines of the house. The old sprawling house becomes another character itself in the unfolding drama. With its limited setting and small cast, the film is reminiscent of those early Hitchcock classics such as Rope and Rear Window. Jacobson effectively ratchets up the tension, although the dark tone is alleviated with nice touches of sardonic black humour. The plot doesn’t always follow a predictable path, which adds to the pleasures of the whole thing.

There is a great prickly dynamic and chemistry that develops between the brothers here that drives the movie. They haven’t often shared the screen together and they obviously relished this opportunity to work together. The usually affable Shane is cast against type here and the role allows him to stretch his range. Gyngell is also very good in a smaller role, and brings an emotional gravitas to his performance, while Curran is superb and makes the most of her role. Sarah Snook contributes a cameo towards the end of the film.

With its simple story, small cast and single contained location though, one could easily imagine Brothers’ Nest being staged in the theatre. However, it has been nicely shot in widescreen by cinematographer Peter Falk (the edgy and gritty drama The Jammed, etc), which gives it a cinematic feel.

★★★☆

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