Review: My Blind Brother
PLOT: Two brothers - one of them blind - face off against each other after they meet a young woman who gives her time to helping the disabled.
REVIEW: There is something very appealing about seeing actors known for comedy take on a more serious subject. Sure MY BLIND BROTHER has much to laugh about, but it is far more serious than you’d expect with a cast featuring Nick Kroll and Adam Scott. This independent feature touches on the bond between brothers and living with a disability, yet without falling into sappy melodrama. The complicated relationship between the brothers is equal parts moving and frustrating. There is a sincere quality in the way the family deals with issues at hand, thus the humor is never forced or inappropriate. It also helps that we as the audience are allowed to see a character that should be sympathetic, but is oftentimes frustratingly hurtful. This is a complex examination of living with, and having to live with, a disability and it works.
Nick Kroll is Bill, a man who is constantly asked to help his brother in a number of charity events. Adam Scott is Robbie, Bill’s brother who does everything he can to rise above his blindness. He runs in marathons and has plans for bigger and more challenging tests of skill and endurance. Every step of the way Bill is right beside him. Things get complicated for the two when Robbie hires a pretty assistant named Rose (Jenny Slate), the girl who Bill happened to have a one night stand with. As Robbie and Rose get closer, it becomes all the more awkward for the three. When Robbie decides to do long distance swimming to raise money for charity - and keep himself on the local news - they find that the close working relationship is one that will undoubtedly cause heartache for everyone involved.
Nick Kroll and Adam Scott are both incredibly talented actors. While Nick is adept at playing comedy, he really shows us another side as Bill. As his brother, Scott plays a complicated character one who has fallen into his own self absorbed ego. As Robbie, he is not terribly nice. He refuses to thank his brother who is constantly helping him, and he has no patience for anyone else with a disability. He also treats Rose especially bad. In fact, he treats most everybody he deals with terrible. Well, aside from when he is giving interviews for all this charitable work. Yet that is what makes this better than it could have been. We do find discover a history behind the brothers which explains the complicated relationship quite well.
As Rose, the woman who comes between the two, Jenny Slate is wonderful. It’s easy to connect to her and her strained relationship with both Bill and Robbie. The actress is incredibly natural as a woman dealing with her unusual situation. Even still, Rose is not perfect. In fact, she makes some terrible decisions as well. The fact that these characters are as flawed as they are gives the film more depth than you’d expect. They all have their moments to shine. One of the best scenes involves both Rose and Bill helping his brother during his risky swimming challenge. Sure the two argue and hold grudges, yet you can’t deny the fact that they clearly care deeply for each other. There are no easy easy answers here, and that only helps the story.
Written and directed by Sophie Goodhart, there is a level of compassion here that is quite effective. With a run time just under 90 minutes, the filmmaker manages to give this romantic comedy a dramatic flair. There is nothing terribly cute or excruciatingly sappy here. Much of this is helped by the level of talent Goodhart has assembled in front of the camera. Kroll, Scott, Slate and Zoe Kazan - who plays Rose’s best friend Francie - are all terrific. You have to appreciate taking a more realistic look at somebody dealing with losing their sight, and how it affects their loved ones. This is not a pretty, perfect picture. This is a touching and yes, funny film, that presents a realistic look at the challenges this family must face.
MY BLIND BROTHER may have a level of sweetness, but it’s better than your average, exceedingly cheerful, romantic tale. While Scott - as well as the script - gives Robbie a frustratingly bitter outlook, it works. You never dislike him fully, however you do sympathize with his brother on more than one occasion. As for Kroll, the comedic actor is especially well cast, as is Slate. And while I did praise the short running time, it is almost too short. By the time the final credits came, I did feel like there was more to the story that we missed. However, that is a small complaint considering how much Goodhart is able to say about a familial bond and the anxiety and fear that comes from dealing with a disability on both sides. If you are a fan of the cast, or are looking for a better than average romantic comedy, MY BLIND BROTHER will certainly fulfill that need.