With its somewhat meandering narrative structure, "My Brother," written and directed by Anthony Lover, may not always feel as fully formed or thought-out as we would like our movies to be, but its heart is definitely in the right place and it does an effective job exploring the complications and complexities inherent in human relationships. In fact, it may well be this LACK of sophistication and slickness that makes the movie feel less contrived and more convincing in the long run. For instance, Isaiah's brief flirtation with a white woman he meets at a party is intriguing precisely because it doesn't in any way enhance the story or advance the plot. It simply feels like a scene ripped from his life, a nice piece of reality tossed into the mix to make the movie more authentic.
Moreover, there are earnest, heartfelt performances by Nashawn Kearse ("Desperate Housewives"), Vanessa Williams, Christopher Scott, Rodney Henry, Donovan Jennings and even Oscar-winner Tatum O'Neal in key roles.
The best scenes are those set in the past, in which a terminally ill single mother (the lovely Williams) struggles against tremendous odds to instill character and values into her two young boys, values they will desperately need if they are to survive and thrive in a world marked by poverty, racism and prejudice. The movie does veer towards the sentimental at times, but it earns its emotions honestly and forthrightly. And even though the crime drama scenes may not always be entirely convincing, it is as a family drama and a tale of total unconditional love that "My Brother" ultimately touches the heart.
Incidentally, as a companion piece to this film, check out "Two Brothers," a documentary that focuses on Scott and Jennings, both young actors with Down Syndrome, and their very powerful work in "My Brother."