My Brother Tom

My Brother Tom


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Young love is seldom as painful as this. Jessica (Jenna Harrison) is taunted by boys at school for being a toffee-nosed virgin and Tom (Ben Whishaw) is bullied for being a weirdo.

"I wanted him to become my friend," she says. "But he became me."

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They drift together, inevitably, both loners, both damaged. She comes from a middle-class family, where nothing is really talked about. He lives with his father, the doctor, who uses his wife's death as a psychological weapon against his son.

Their relationship, which takes place almost entirely in the woods, where he builds a secret hiding place, is childish in its intensity. Always, you are aware that Tom's repressed anger could break loose. The tiniest thing might upset him and cause him to do something crazy.

If Tom behaves as though he is mad at times, he is like a boy whose sensitivity has no protection. Jessica needs his friendship and his love, not that they understand exactly what this means, or where it will lead. She wants forever to mean forever, as if trust in their absolute twinness ("I can feel your thoughts," he says) will save her from what she sees as the abuse of the adult world.

Debut feature director, Dom Rotheroe's experience is with documentaries, which may explain his decision to shoot entirely handheld with the latest DV camera. The technique increases a sense of intimacy, giving the film a rougher look.

The script by Rotheroe and Alison Beeton-Hilder conveys an aspect of teenage life that is conveniently overlooked by mainstream moviemakers. The fine line between loyalty and betrayal is like gossamer. When it breaks, the heart breaks also.

The young actors, making their first movie, take risks beyond the call of duty. It is a triumph of hope over experience. If the ending is predictable and the mood dark, that is the nature of the beast. At 15, love is not blind, but untamed, too dangerous to predict.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2001
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Two school loners fall in love.
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Director: Don Rotheroe

Writer: Alison Beeton-Hilder, Dom Rotheroe

Starring: Jenna Harrison, Ben Whishaw, Honeysuckle Weeks, Michael Erskine, Adrian Rawlins, Judith Scott

Year: 2001

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2001

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