I only go to the movies maybe once a year. So this review of Brothers with Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, and Jake Gyllenhaal will probably be my one and only movie review of 2009.
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie shows a scarily typical American family that is leading a completely vapid, senseless, emotionless existence. Their food, their clothes, their pastimes are drab and boring. They are incapable of any real, profound human emotion or any thought that rises above the purely mundane. The only ways men in this family of sad, uneducated people can make a living are becoming a criminal or going into the military. When Sam, the responsible family man, is declared dead in action in Afghanistan, his widow Grace is kind of sad but not a whole lot. Sam's wayward brother Tommy starts hanging around, and Grace lets him occupy Sam's position in her life. She doesn't seem to care much one way or the other which one of the brothers repairs her kitchen, plays with her daughters and engages in romantic interludes with her. Then Sam unexpectedly comes back, which is also kind of OK with the utterly vapid Grace, played convincingly by Natalie Portman, whose total lack of personality in real life suits this role perfectly.
Sam, who has gone through hell in Afghanistan, feels that he cannot learn to reinscribe himself into this world of interchangeable, wives, husbands, children, siblings, and friends. Everybody expects him to suck it up and resume the kind of existence he led before his horrible war experiences. However, Sam actually grew some personality during his captivity and torture. He is incapable of understanding this empty kind of life any more, let alone actually living it
The powerful and painful message of this movie is that some people can only be shaken out of the stupor they live in by something as horrible as what Sam goes through in Afghanistan. At the end of the film, Sam goes into a psychiatric facility. Apparently, he will have to undergo therapy in order to be cured of his newly found humanity. Then, he can attempt to join the world of robots represented by his family members.