BROTHERLY LIES: An Effective Indie Drama Dealing With Harsh Truths

With Brotherly Lies, writer-director Mark Schwab (Crisis Hotline) once again constructs a film imbued with perfidy and betrayal. Shot inside a grandiose vacation home, the movie follows a slew of house guests who have trouble sorting out romantic entanglements, repressed trauma, and the line between art and appropriation. The result is a sly and juicy drama that puts the cast to good use in a contained, albeit opulent space where romantic sparks and conflicting personalities clash. 

Lex (Pano Tsaklas) is the owner of the vacation home. Soon, it’s revealed that Lex recently tried to take his own life, and what better way to relax and recover than at a vacation home with his best friend Kenny (Jose Fernando). However, relaxation proves more difficult as they are joined by four other guests. There’s Lex’s brother David (Robert Sean Campbell), David’s fiance Laura (Casey Semple), Lex’s guesthouse tenant Shane (Jacob Betts), and neighbor Harry (Mark Schwab). As the characters interact with one another, one-sided attractions become more apparent, and dark secrets are dredged up from the past. Suffice it to say, there is relationship drama galore. 

An Alluring Drama About The Secrets & Lies We Keep & The Ones We Divulge

The movie begins with Lex feeling frustrated that his brother is trying to convince Shane, a struggling screenwriter, to write a screenplay about a traumatic event in Lex and David’s past. Many years ago, a teenage Lex shot and killed their abusive stepfather. Surely, having gone through that experience is bound to have a lasting effect on their lives. Lex and David may cope with trauma differently, but the event was a pivotal moment in their lives. But David, a once-promising actor, sees an opportunity to reinvigorate his career by exploiting the tragic incident for entertainment. Lex is resentful of his brother’s brazen attempts to solicit Shane into writing the screenplay. Lex doesn’t think his brother is being considerate of how the incident affected his mental health. Additionally, Lex doesn’t like that his brother is taking time away from him to hang out with Shane, whom he has a crush on. The tension between brothers and the lengths one will go to exploit tragedy for art is enough material for a feature film. Even so, Brotherly Lies is not only a drama about the secrets and lies brothers tell to themselves and each other. The other guests have their own secrets and hidden desires. 

BROTHERLY LIES: An Effective Indie Drama Dealing With Harsh Truths
source: Diamond in the Rough Films

On a purely romantic level, there are complications. Lex has fallen in love with Shane, Harry has fallen in love with Lex, and Shane has fallen in love with Kenny. Unsurprisingly, these romantic complications cause drama. The movie begins by alluding to the fact that the guests have already shared intimate moments. But it is through later conversations that viewers learn about the depth of their romantic feelings. Lex is the first person Harry felt a deeper connection with since his husband’s passing. Kenny is unhappily married, but he finds himself fighting off feelings for Shane, knowing that Lex is interested in Shane. These conversations are permeated with a palpable sense of romantic yearning that comes through the actors’ body language. 

Schwab writes and develops complex characters. Lex and David make for a compelling sibling dynamic. They both experienced the same traumatic event. However, the grieving and healing process is never the same, hence why Lex and David are unable to connect on a deeper level. Lex, who is characteristically more reserved and agitated, still struggles mentally from the incident. David hides behind a more brassy and animated exterior, only ever getting more vulnerable when he’s isolated from the group. Kenny yearns for an escape, while Harry yearns for connection. Shane is charming and attractive, but he acknowledges how he can mislead people. Even Laura opens up about her job and how jaded she has become. Schwab allows everyone the opportunity to get things off their chest. Add in some booze and drugs to take the edge off, and every divulgence is delivered organically. 

Everyone Gives A Strong Performance

Brotherly Lies relies on the insightful and suggestive dialogue between characters. For the most part, the conversations are intriguing, as they end up unveiling something new or concealed about the characters. This is a testament to Schwab’s ability to give the actors a lot to work with in terms of emotion and delivery. Pano Tsaklas makes for a quietly expressive protagonist. Robert Sean Campbell is particularly impressive as the garrulous brother, who has several scenes where he must open himself up to scrutiny, and he wholeheartedly radiates feelings of regret. The rest of the cast delivers just as well.

BROTHERLY LIES: An Effective Indie Drama Dealing With Harsh Truths
source: Diamond in the Rough Films

Since the movie takes place in a single setting and almost every scene has at least two characters interacting, DOP Adam Bishop and Steven Murr sustain some visual vigor by employing varied camerawork. Some shots are more distant, while some are more close-up and personal. Either way, the camerawork is smooth and neat, always encompassing the actors and the space they’re occupying (a static shot on a balcony is a notable example of this). Plus, I particularly like how a power outage has a literal and metaphorical meaning—literal because it leaves characters in a darkened setting, and metaphorical because the power outage compels some characters to reveal their romantic hankerings, thinking it is unwise to leave them in the dark any longer. 

In a film called Brotherly Lies, the conflict between Lex and David does not take priority. While Schwab’s direction shows how everyone is dealing with their own attractions and plight, not enough focus is on Lex and David. Meanwhile, a leisurely pace often makes it difficult to stay invested to see how the conflicts resolve, deepen, or worsen. Fortunately, the strong performances uphold an adequate portion of the intrigue. 

Brotherly Lies: Conclusion

In short, Mark Schwab’s Brotherly Lies is a gripping indie drama about regret, desire, and trauma. The movie goes on to show that love, life, and relationships are complicated and imperfect—and at the end of the day, those complications and imperfections are to be expected, if not totally accepted. 

Are you interested to see Brotherly Lies? Let us know in the comments!

The release date for Brotherly Lies is unknown at this time. 

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