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Film Review: My Brother the Devil

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Sally El-Hosaini's debut feature My Brother the Devil is a refreshing take on the much maligned and clichéd British urban film genre. 

The six years it took to make have definitely paid off, as the film has won multiple awards including Best European Film at Berlinale festival and Best Cinematography at Sundance.

Set in Hackney, El-Hosaini’s hometown of ten years, it tells the story of brothers Mo and Rashid, children of Egyptian immigrants. With Mo off school for the summer holidays he becomes increasingly attracted to the gang life of the older brother he idolises.

As Rashid tries to steer Mo away from this destructive path, loyalties are tested and prejudices arise. For both of the brothers it is a coming of age tale as they figure out how to navigate through the world they find themselves in. Whilst the film touches on a variety of topics, most importantly it is about their relationship.

At the beginning, it did seem as if this was just another urban drama, treading similar territory to shows like Top Boy with every other word being a ‘fam,’ ‘blud’ or ‘cuz.’ In this sense the felt film dated, making it evident that it was written a few years ago.

However, its focus on character sets My Brother the Devil apart  from similar films. James Floyd and newcomer Fady Elsayed are excellent leads, carrying the story, although the supporting characters are not so fleshed out and often fall into the trap of undeveloped stereotypes. The casting of Said Taghmaoui, who most notably starred in seminal French urban film La Haine, is a welcome nod to the films predecessors.

Visually the film is stunning opting for bright, vivid hues showing that there is joy to be found even in such dark environment.

My Brother the Devil touches on taboo issues and looks at inner-city problems in a way that has not been done in recent British cinema. The unbreakable relationship between two brothers, two people brought together by no choice of their own, sits at the heart of the film, which is something that everyone can relate to. 

My Brother the Devil is released on DVD in the UK on 18th March.

Read our intwerview with writer and director Sally El-Hosaini here.

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