Freres – Brothers (2024)

April 30th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Olivier Casas | Cast: Yvan Attal, Matthieu Kassovitz | France, Drama

Oliver Casas makes a well-intentioned tribute to all the child survivors who lost parents in the aftermath to the Second World War with his sophomore feature Freres – a noble idea but sadly that’s all it is.

Based on a true story Freres is a worthy piece of filmmaking whose only plus point is a central casting of Matthieu Kassovitz and Yvan Attal as adult brothers (their young selves – aged 5-8 – are played by a dusky duo of Enzo Bonnet and Victor Escoude-Oury).

We’re supposed to be moved by the men’s plight as children in a torpid narrative arc (cobbled together by three writers) that sets off in their childhood. But not even this veteran French couple can jazz up a buddy movie that relies heavily on the sweeping landscapes of France and a dramatic score droning away in the background during endless elliptical stretches where neither men speak (and you can’t help thinking of Terrence Mallick) but look into the distance with pained or poignant expressions for the best part of two hours.

In early scenes we see their kid counterparts living in a cabin in the woods after being mysteriously abandoned by their mother in 1948. They represent the many “lost children” left behind by the war. Pat feels somehow responsible for Michel and this devastating experience creates an everlasting bond between the two as they survive for nearly seven years in a hostile environment where testing events shape their future in the name of brotherly love. Kassovitz’s character Patrick, a doctor, tells Yvan Attal’s younger counterpart Michel, an architect “If you want to live, I have to go away. And so he does – at the age of 43. Why exactly, and do we even care?

Freres flips backwards and forward in time until one day, after marrying and raising two adult kids, Michel gets a call from Quebec to say Pat has gone awol from his family home. So he drops everything to investigate. Once again, reunited with Michel, he goes back to the cabin in the woods this time to play chess and reveal a little bit more of the past, but nothing really tangible quantifies Pat’s need to depart this world. And the suspense in waiting for a plausible reason is almost unbearable (pause for laughs) in this glossily filmed epic filmed on the wide screen and in vignettish close-ups by Magali Silvestre de Sacy. If you want to see some really worthwhile films on this subject I would recommend the following: Germany Year Zero (1948) Au Revoir les enfants (1987) or Rene Clement’s magical wartime fable Forbidden Games (1952) @MeredithTaylor


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