My Blind Brother (2016)
Director: Sophie Goodhart
Writer: Sophie Goodhart
Starring: Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, Adam Scott, Zoe Kazan
This pleasantly simplistic and inventive rom-com is a solid directorial debut, but lacks the momentum or definition for it to stand out among the vast genre to which it belongs.
My Blind Brother, the feature length version of the 2003 short film written and directed by Sophie Goodhart, is a quiet little romantic comedy in which two brothers - Bill, (Kroll) a pot-smoking slacker and Robbie (Scott), an ambitious but blind borderline narcissist - fall in love with the same girl (Slate), unbeknownst to Robbie.
From the outset this is a hard film to follow. It certainly is a perfectly enjoyable rom-com assuming you aren't expecting an hour and a half's worth of belly laughs or sweeping monologues, but the tone of the film simply cannot sit still. It is frustratingly fickle, the film never quite deciding what story it is trying to tell, one moment leading us down a path of forbidden romance, the next moment taking us on a journey through brotherly love. Multiple themes make an appearance throughout - the film even makes a brief but idle statement about the culture surrounding physical disability - but they lack any kind of structure or order. Each line of dialogue has the potential to violently redirect the tone just when the audience was starting to feel comfortable.
The same can be said of Scott's character, the sightless Robbie, who can start a sentence channeling an endearing eccentricity and end that same sentence being irritatingly obnoxious. It almost impossible to know how to feel about Robbie, his personality being so fluxional. Flawed, three-dimensional characters are the secret sauce for successful TV dramas, but in a short, easy-watch comedy more clearly defined personalities are needed.
My Blind Brother also lacks any momentum, the film mirroring (rather poetically) the lethargy of Kroll's character. It lumbers from scene to scene, lacking any real drive or energy. The film clings sloppily to its 81 minutes, having no real definition or shape, some scenes lingering for far too long, others being far too hurried. An unambitious and somewhat clumsy script doesn't help to streamline the film; it's dotted with occasional humdingers, and we are treated to the odd moment of decent situational comedy, but the rest of the film plods along teasing little more than brief smile from the viewer. My Blind Brother doesn't attempt to command the viewers attention, happily ticking along with little desire to rouse or inspire.
The film is saved by its inventive story-line and its charmingly hopeless leads, Kroll and Slate, whose interchanges are warming and honest. With a little more enthusiasm and a lot more structure this film could really shine, but without these elements it does little more than serve as an hour and a half's worth of distraction.
In one line: A warming but sloppy romantic comedy which won't electrify you, but is a competent first attempt at a feature length film.