Atlantic Film Festival 2012: ‘My Brother the Devil’ a by-the-numbers affair

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My Brother the Devil
Written by Sally El Hosaini, Aymen Hamdouchi
Directed by Sally El Hosaini
UK, 2012

My Brother the Devil tells the story of British-Egyptian teenager Mo, who has decided that he is finally old enough to join his older brother Rashid and his friends in their drug-peddling gang. But Rashid has a different idea of his brother’s future and tries his hardest to keep Mo away from the life that he himself has chosen. When their mutual friend Izzi is killed in a gang fight, the two clash more and more over how to avenge Izzi’s death. Tensions rise and begin escalating when Rashid starts hanging out with Sayyid, a mysterious friend of Izzi’s that has just moved to town.

Though the film’s director, Sally El Hosaini, surely tried to make a very personal and emotional film, what we are left with is a very run-of-the-mill indie gangster drama, the kind that is made with the thought of submitting it to Sundance in the back of the filmmaker’s head. The fairly well-worn story of the brother that made some mistakes and tries to create a new life for the younger brother is nothing new to filmgoers and has been told before. Here, it is interspersed with shots of empty playgrounds and rundown high-rise buildings. It does, however, paint a pretty vivid picture of life in gangland London and how its inhabitants interact with each other, right down to the colourful jargon that comes with it. Though this film is one instance where probably most people not immersed into this community could benefit from some subtitles.

About halfway through the movie El Hosaini inserts an attempt at differentiating the film from others like it but it seems half hazard and out of nowhere. What the film does benefit from are two very earnest and captivating performances by relative newcomers James Floyd as Rashid and Fady Elsayed as Mo. The two elevate the material quite a bit and make it worth watching at least a little bit.

Laura Holtebrinck