Aida Vucic | 13/06/2018
There’s something to be said about Australian storytelling. Less refined than that of our sovereign country or the home of Hollywood, and void of any pretentious writing, its dialogue is enough to provide audiences with the necessary details to infer the character’s temperament without excessive exposition. In line with this, Brother’s Nest is raw, humble and unquestionably an Australian story.
The film opens as the brothers Terry (Shane Jacobson) and Jeff (Clayton Jacobson) journey on mountain bikes through countryside Victoria to a seemingly deserted home, which we later find out was their childhood home and also the place where their father had committed suicide years earlier, following their mother leaving him for another man (Roger). As the brothers recall memories of their childhood, their intentions become clear; they’re here for a purpose - to ensure that their father’s legacy (the house) remains in their possession. But at what cost? And just how far are they willing to go? The boy’s preparation sees them rehearse a number of scenarios, which ultimately will all be redundant when spontaneity and chance strike.
What is most enjoyable about Brother’s Nest, is that it takes it time to divulge the story, peeling back layer by layer whilst also simultaneously providing us insights into both the brother’s character. Terry is the abiding, kindly brother, who’s clearly not the brains behind the operation and is in complete disarray as whether they should go through with their plan. In contrast, Jeff has meticulously thought out each step of their plan, refining it and ensuring that they complete the task at hand. Even from the early scenes there is a sense of homicidal inclination to him. Real life brothers Shane and Clayton work perfectly together, infusing their characters with credibility even when the script or budgetary constraints fail them.
Jacobson shot the film in sequence, and in interviews has revealed that he took more time in the early scenes between lines of dialogue, to allow himself the ability to look back on the footage and adjust his own performance to a baseline that would allow him to know when he was hitting his marks after a few days. Alas, this lends an air of amateurism to the first 5 or 10 minutes of the film, with harsh cuts as lines of dialogue float between the two brothers. This creates an air of falsity that tends to permeate the first act - you know that you are watching a film, and that these two are acting.
But that low point happens right at the very start, and while the film doesn’t fully recover until the second act, it is on a constant ascent throughout. The reason we call out the second act is because by that time, you are fully, utterly immersed in this twisty, turny tale. You’re shocked, awed, horrified and chuckling, all at the same time, as the film more surely struts it stuff. By the end of the third act, when everything has gone to hell, you’ll be begging Jacobson to make more varied fare than the comedies like Kenny - because he’s bloody good at it.
Brother’s Nest stands in stark contrast to the duos earlier movie, Kenny, and is a welcome relief from the crass Australian comedies that we’ve become accustomed to seeing being produced on our shores. Still incorporating elements of comedy and using colloquial language, the film veers towards the darker side, accompanied with ominous music and a colour palette that includes subdued browns and greys (with the exception of the hideous orange jumpsuits the pair wear). Clayton’s direction is clear here and his acting on par, creating a dark comedy that is tense and blatantly Australian.
Twisted, dark and undeniably funny, the film has been likened to the Coen Brothers, and deservedly so. Brother’s Nest is another excellent achievement for Clayton Jacobson.