Written and directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Riz Ahmed, Jake Gyllenhaal
Running time: 2 hours and 1 minute
MPAA rating: R for including disturbing images, language, and some sexual content
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
“I am 35 years old and my life is like an empty cylinder.” – John Morris
Lately, the darkness of a coffin has never seemed so appealing. The world is an anxiety inducing shit show. Each new day seems to hurl something worse at us than the day before. However, there are movies. It feels so much better to go into a dark movie theater, than into a black hole of sadness. Movies are here to save us. Movies like: The Sisters Brothers.
Written and directed by Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers is set in 1850s Oregon, a time where not just the west was wild, but so was the breath. After viewing this film, there's no question that whiskey was easily acquired, the same can't be said for a toothbrush. The story follows brothers, Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix), hired guns chasing down a gold prospector, Hermann (Riz Ahmed) and a tracker, John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). The plan was that John would capture Hermann and rendezvous with the brothers at a specific meeting place, at which time they would use rather unsettling methods to inspire Hermann to talk. Everything changes, when John chats with Hermann first and learns of his experiments and the creation of the secret formoooola that when mixed properly can assist with finding gold in the river. From drunken saloon fights, spider bites, and brothels to a tutorial on teeth brushing, this two hour flick takes the viewer on a wild journey as the brothers attempt to track down their target.
The relationship of Eli and Charlie is wonderfully told. Through their dialogue and characteristics, the bond between the two brothers comes off as genuine and, at times, endearing. Having a sibling of my own, this story really hit home with me. I have always felt there is this invisible understanding between siblings, a bond. No matter what happens, this bond can't be broken. Even if I don't speak to my brother regularly or don't quite understand his life choices, there is nothing I would not do for him. He is my little brother. This type of relentless love is represented beautifully between Eli and Charlie. The older brother, Eli, is portrayed as level headed, responsible and wise. These traits have led him to a life of cleaning up after his untamed, loose cannon of a brother Charlie. Eli is always there for Charlie, even if that requires picking him up after a night of heavy drinking to throw him back on his horse.
When it comes to the westerns, I have to admit that I have not dabbled in this genre much. I've seen the classics like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Shane, and Valdez is Coming but not many of them inspire a re-watch from me. The Sisters Brothers is different. Some may find the story to be slow moving and quiet. However, for me it is what is not said that comes off as the most moving. These methods of storytelling makes the conversations that much more meaningful. Reilly and Phoenix do an amazing job of creating an authentic and relatable relationship. I believe I feel this way due to the relationship between the siblings. The brothers go through various changes which the viewer is given the opportunity to witness. For Eli, he realizes his life as an assassin has an expiration date. It is clear, the only reason he even sticks with this career is his brother and he would rather settle down, open a store and start a family. Whereas Charlie may say he wants to continue the lifestyle, but deep down he knows at some point it will come to an end. Throughout the film, these feelings impact many of the choices the two brothers make.
When the brothers finally track down the gold prospector and John Morris, they find a lot more than what they were originally looking for and manage to lose a few things along the way. In the end, the brothers find themselves back at the beginning...home with mother.