Gangland Drama My Brother the Devil Offers New Take on Overshot Slums

MyBrotherTheDevil_Filmstill6_Fady Elsayed_James Floyd_byEtienneBol NEW2

Living in an underdeveloped part of the city called Hackney, Mo (Fady Elsayed) is a good kid who respects his dad, watches Bollywood movies on the telly to humor his mom, gets good grades in school and seems destined for a better life, which his handsome, independent older brother Rashid (James Floyd) encourages, saving money to send Mo to college. But Rashid can’t escape the lure, or the pitfalls, of his environment, dealing drugs and playing a pivotal role in the illegal activities of a street gang called DMG (Drugs, Money, Guns). After one of his friends is murdered by a rival gang, Rashid begins to see the futility of his lifestyle. A new friendship with a photographer from Paris named Sayyid (Saïd Taghmaoui) further broadens his perspective. Sayyid convinces him there are cultural pursuits he has never experienced. To Mo’s astonishment, the brother he always worshiped suddenly wears a tie, looks for a job and reads Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet—transformations Mo witnesses with mixed emotions. But it’s not until Mo sees Rashid in bed with Sayyid that his own world falls apart. “I’d rather my brother was a terrorist than a homo,” says Mo. As his loyalty diminishes, he moves closer to the life Rashid used to shelter him from. Lonely and sad, he turns to drink and cocaine, and the closer he gets to the thugs and crackheads in Rashid’s old gang, the closer he gets to inevitable tragedy.

Rashid’s conversion to homosexuality is vague and unconvincing. But the direction by Ms. Hosaini, who is herself of Egyptian descent, is sensitive, offering vital contrasts between the family values of the brothers’ Egyptian heritage and the crime-propelled lifestyle they live in outside their home. The actors are all splendid, especially James Floyd, who I predict has a rich career in future films, and the award-winning cinematography by David Raedeker really transports you to a claustrophobic part of London you will never see as a tourist. Already a big hit in the U.K., My Brother the Devil may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s heady stuff for those who like something stronger than Earl Grey.

rreed@observer.com

 

MY BROTHER THE DEVIL

Running Time 111 minutes

Written and Directed by Sally El Hosaini

Starring James Floyd, Fady Elsayed and Saïd Taghmaoui