Film Review: The Sisters Brothers

 

Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers is a reflective western. By subverting some of the genre tropes, Audiard has created an interesting addition to the field.

Eli and Charlie Sisters are assassins for hire. Working for Oregon’s commodore, the brothers are tasked with tracking down a prospector who has fled to California…

Based on the book by Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers is a Western that both adheres to and subverts conventions. The great thing about Audiard’s film is its illusionary nature. At first, the film appears to be a traditional western, albeit with a comedic edge. As the film progresses, it transitions into something else. The way in which director manoeuvres the narrative is quite something.

The protagonist’s develop well as The Sisters Brothers progresses. To begin with, the brothers are set up as archetypes, with the confident drunk and the more sensitive elder playing off each other. As the narrative continues, they develop into more complex characters, shrugging off the previous archetypes. The perception of masculinity is one of the film’s key themes; this is played out in a pleasing manner.

The relationships which are explored are satisfying. There are some great scenes which focus upon this. The dialogue is definitely a plus, with both humour and emotion to be derived from these interactions. The tonal shifts that occur during the film are never jarring, but instead enhance the overall picture. Audiard sets up a grand finale, which would be very in keeping with the genre. Yet what actually occurs is more rewarding.

Performances in the film are as admirable as you would expect from four great actors. Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Really are both great in the film’s humourous and more reflective moments. The interactions between Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters are wonderful to watch. Audiard’s direction is assured, and the cinematography captures the vast and the intimate equally well. The tracking shot in the house at the end is fantastic.

The Sisters Brothers is an engaging and endearing picture. Director delivers something far more interesting than what appears at first glance. 

The Sisters Brothers is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

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