Brother and Sister -- Film Review

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KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Daniel Burman's "Brother and Sister" is a tale of an aging single man dominated by two overbearing women that easily could have become misogynistic but instead is an absorbing and forgiving character study. With a big, colorful performance by Graciela Borges as a scheming and, in many ways, hateful woman who never has married and a subtle, keenly observed one by Antonio Gasalla as her browbeaten bachelor brother, the film should resonate among grown-up audiences.

The film should do well in Spanish-language territories and find a welcome at festivals and in art houses.

Burman and co-writer Sergio Dubcovsky deliver a story of sacrifice and redemption with growing charm. Borges' Susana is a piece of work, a devious and opportunistic Buenos Aires real estate agent whose technique is to keep as many buyers and sellers on the hook for as long as possible.

Her brother Marcos (Gasalla) is not spared her ruthlessness as she exploits his affection for their bedridden mother to ensure he is the caregiver while she takes care of business.

A goldsmith by trade, Marcos had youthful ambitions to travel and act. With their father dead, though, he has devoted himself to nursing a parent (Elena Lucena) who is as ungrateful as his sister is manipulative. When he explains that he was unable to phone her because he could not get a signal, she complains, "You need a signal to call your mother?"

When the old woman dies, Susana exploits the situation as her brother weeps by selling the family home and shipping Marcos upriver to the Uruguay town Villa Laura, where she has a house on which she owes money.

While she stays on in Argentina, stealing her neighbor's mail for invitations to fancy parties, Marcos unexpectedly settles into his new community and, in his mid-60s, discovers it's not too late to follow his long-abandoned dreams.

Borges and Gasalla make a memorable team as they gradually reveal the siblings' mutual dependence. There is a rousing finale and a graceful end-credits sequence in which the cast joins in a toe-tapping performance of "Puttin' on the Ritz."

Venue: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Official Competition)
Cast: Graciela Borges, Antonio Gasalla, Elena Lucena, Omar Nunez, Rita Cortese
Production: BD Cine
Director: Daniel Burman
Screenwriters: Daniel Burman, Sergio Dubcovsky
Producer: Diego Dubcovsky
Director of photography: Hugo Colace
Production designers: Margarita Tambornino, Paulina Lopez Meyer
Music: Nico Cota
Editor: Pablo Barbieri
Sales: BD Cine
No rating, 105 minutes
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