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  • TBC
  • Comedy, Crime
  • 2007
  • 104 mins

My Brother Is An Only Child

My Brother Is An Only Child

Synopsis

In Daniele Luchete's sweeping saga, divisions within a working class Italian family encompass 15 years of political turmoil in a nation's history

About

The story goes that Rome was born from the internecine strife between the twin brothers Romulus and Remus - and from this foundation myth was also born a long artistic tradition of using the prism of fraternal conflict to filter key transitional moments in Italian history. It is a tradition that has certainly left its mark on the country's cinema, from Luchino Visconti's Rocco And His Brothers (1960) to Marco Tullio Giordano's six-hour epic The Best Of Youth (2003).

Like The Best of Youth, Daniele Luchetti's My Brother Is An Only Child was co-written by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, and concerns two (seemingly) ideologically opposed brothers finding their way through the shifting political landscape of post-WWII Italy - but Luchetti's film is much shorter and sweeter, with its emphasis more on character-based drama than the intricacies of social history.

Doomed seemingly forever to live in the shadow of his older, more charming brother Manrico (Scamarcio), Antonio Benassi responds with a determined belligerence that earns him the nickname Accio ('bully') from his early years. It is in 1962 that we first meet Accio (Propizio), aged 13 and he's already confronting the padres, not to mention his fellow students, at the seminary that he is attending. With typical impulsiveness, he is soon led by a "crisis of conscience" to return to the overcrowded, dilapidated apartment of his working class family.

Too young to work alongside his father (Popolizio) at the factory, and unsuccessful in his plan to travel to Africa to "help the masses", Accio turns instead to the Fascist movement as the ultimate cause for his volatile rebelliousness - even as his brother becomes a rising star amongst the Communists.

One beautifully fluid transition later, and the older Accio (now played by Germano) falls in love with his brother's girlfriend Francesca (Fleri), grows disillusioned with the increasingly violent idiocy of his fellow fascists, is schooled in sex by an older, married woman (Bonaiuto), comes over to his brother on the Communist side, and goes into hiding for a crime that he did not commit. Then Manrico begins displaying the sort of aggressive fervour that had once characterised his younger brother. Accio will at last discover something truly worth fighting for, and return to rebuild his crumbling family.

In My Brother Is An Only Child, all the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s, when Italy's simmering post-war politics would suddenly erupt into irrational violence, is transformed into a bittersweet coming-of-age tale for an individual as well as, almost incidentally, for a nation.

Adapted from Antonio Pennacchi's semi-autobiographical novel 'Il Fasciocomunista', and borrowing its title from a popular Rino Gaetano song, Luchetti's film paints these difficult decades with good humour and nostalgia. One sequence, in which the performance of an absurdly defascistised version of 'Ode To Joy' is disrupted by Fascists not previously known for their interest in Ludvig Van Beethoven, exemplifies the tone of mild ridicule adopted towards both sides of the ideological spectrum as they go through their difficult 'adolescence' - and though the more violent actions of the 1970s are treated less comically, Luchetti still keeps his focus on their petty, deluded nature.

Set in Latina, a town created by Mussolini out of the Pontine Marshes, My Brother Is An Only Child repeatedly exposes the shaky foundations on which post-war Italy was built. Not only is the Benassis' home at constant risk of collapse, but while the older generation has been left clinging to ancient ruins or lost causes, the political views held by the family's younger masters are based on nothing more solid than petty rivalry and a desire to fit in. Boys will of course be boys - but the film also shows puerility gradually maturing into something more fully formed, and offers, in its final images, hope for Italy.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Massimo Popolizio, Anna Bonaiuto, Elio Germano, Luca Zingaretti, Riccardo Scamarcio, Angela Finocchiaro, Claudio Botosso, Alba Rohrwacher, Vittorio Emanuele Propizio, Diane Fleri
  • Director: Daniele Luchetti
  • Screen Writer: Stefano Rulli, Daniele Luchetti, Sandro Petraglia
  • Writer (Book): Antonio Pennacchi
  • Producer: Giovanni Stabilini, Riccardo Tozzi, Marco Chimenz
  • Photographer: Claudio Collepiccolo
  • Composer: Franco Piersanti

In a nutshell

With its excellent performances from all generations and its eclectic soundtrack of period songs, My Brother Is An Only Child reminisces with improbable yet affecting fondness over the adolescents behind the -isms that would shape post-war Italy.

by Anton Bitel

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