My Brother Is an Only Child



CANNES -- Italian filmmakers have a unique facility for tracking the lives, loves and coming-of-age of a group of characters, usually families, through the social and political changes within Italy over a number of years.

Daniele Luchetti's "My Brother Is an Only Child" (Mio Fratello e Figlio Unico) is one of the better examples of the genre, focusing on a pair of brothers who struggle to make sense of the social turbulence of the 1960s and '70s.

For all the concentration on politics, the film isn't really political at all, but rather a fine and engaging study of two personalities, seemingly in sharp contrast, that prove awfully alike in the end. All the characters are immensely charismatic, and Luchetti shows a firm hand though a light touch in keeping the story focused on people's inner lives rather than the eye-catching turmoil that surrounds them. Theatrical prospects look promising throughout the world in specialty adult venues.

The two brothers, first seen at an early age in the small town of Latina in 1962, are enough to drive a mother crazy as they grow older. Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) is handsome and intelligent, a smart catch for any of the young women who eye him. But his younger brother, Accio (Elio Germano), is a born rebel, causing trouble at the seminary to which his parents have so misguidedly sent him. He questions everything with vigor as a self-righteous anger smolders within him.

Naturally, Accio is our protagonist in this script by Luchetti, Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Antonio Pennacchi. Accio veers from the family when he senses his elder brother and sister, Violetta (Alba Rohrwacher), are the more favored.

He is thus susceptible to the poisonous blandishments of an unrepentant Fascist. He soon joins the party to the horror of his left-leaning, working-class family. While his elder brother gets involved in agitation for better working conditions and housing with communist organizations, Accio learns how to disrupt leftist protests and to smash things including, sometimes, people.

Manrico never accepts his brother's rightist politics, thinking -- correctly, as it turns out -- that this stems more from issues of personal insecurity and identity than conviction. What really unites but also divides the brothers is Manrico's new girlfriend, Francesca (Diane Fleri), with whom Accio has fallen madly in love.

Accio eventually loses his innocence with the wife (Anna Bonaiuto) of his Fascist mentor, but he still longs for Francesca. She is the one that, in a sense, draws him back to Manrico and his family, if only to argue politics with Francesca.

Meanwhile, as Accio grows repulsed at the Fascists' increasingly violent tactics -- especially when his brother and, later, sister get caught up in melees -- Manrico drifts into the dangerous fanaticism that Accio himself gave up, that of crime and terrorism.

Things play out in unexpected and dramatic ways in a terrific third act. For all the intriguing plot twists though, Luchetti remains firmly committed to all the action springing from characters.

In this regard, he is blessed with a terrific leading performance by Germano. The young actor convincingly conveys the shifting personal and political perspective as his character matures. You enjoy watching Accio grow and learn from life, in contrast to his brother who seems to regress as ideology engulfs him.

All tech credits gleam with professionalism, especially the camerawork by Claudio Collepiccolo, who often favors close shots of actors even when they are embroiled in hot and heavy action.

Warner Bros. and Cattleya in association with Babe Films and StudioCanal
Director: Daniele Luchetti
Screenwriters: Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli, Daniele Luchetti
Based on a novel by: Antonio Pennacchi
Producers: Bruno Ridolfi, Matteo De Laurentiis
Director of photography: Claudio Collepiccolo
Production designer: Francesco Frigeri
Music: Franco Piersanti
Costume designer: Maria Rita Barbera
Editor: Mirco Garrone
Cast: Accio: Elio Germano
Manrico: Riccardo Scamarcio
Francesca: Diane Fleri
Violetta: Alba Rhorwacher
Mother: Angela Finocchiaro
Father: Massimo Popolizio
Bella: Anna Bonaiuto
Running time -- 104 minutes
No MPAA rating