We have seen many films dealing with the trials and tribulations of families dealing with gang warfare and talent going to waste due to it. Clement Virgo’s Brother may remind one of Boyz n the Hood, but the way it unfolds makes it a broader study on grief and how violence and prejudice fuse themselves with a person’s cultural identity, even if they try to fight hard against it. 2023 film, Brother also functions as a coming-of-age drama, where the younger brother grew up in the shadow of the elder one, and once he departed, he had to find his own way into an unjust world.
Brother is a gut-wrenching film, and editor Kye Meechan has to be mentioned because of how he has chronicled the entire film, moving back and forth in the timeline, bringing to the forefront the stark contrast between how somebody is before and how grief changes that person and impacts the whole family. The story of Brother follows the lives of two brothers growing up in Scarborough, Canada. Francis, the elder one, is a star in the making, as he has all the qualities of a person who can really make it big in this life. The younger one, Michael, reveres Francis, but he knows he will never be as cool as his brother. All credit goes to Ruth, their mother, who made countless sacrifices and raised the two boys alone. Somewhere along the line, Francis gets mixed up with a group of delinquents, and soon the repercussions of gang-related violence affect the lives of the two brothers.
Plot Synopsis: What happens in ‘Brother’ (2023) Film?
Francis is studying to be a carpenter, and his younger brother Michael goes to the same school he went to. Michael looks up to Francis, as he is the epitome of masculinity for him. Neither of the boys had their father’s company around while growing up, and they were raised by their mother, Ruth, alone. She worked extra jobs and did overtime to raise the boys. She had indeed done a great job, as the boys were full of potential and, if things went right, would make excellent, productive members of society and make a name for themselves. Michael might’ve looked like he was a little slow, and Francis might’ve looked like the more flamboyant one, but they both perceived and understood things that were going on around them.
Ruth tried to instill in them the values of self-respect and integrity, as she didn’t want them to become like their father, who left her and played no part in raising the kids. But she didn’t know that the company one keeps determines most parts of one’s value system. Michael was minimalistic in his approach to life, as he knew the family’s reality. Francis was not going to settle for that. He wanted to do something bigger in life and was getting sucked in by the razzmatazz and the flashiness of the outside world. His ‘brethren’ included some people who were involved in gang wars, and although Francis was keen on going into the music world, the issues of growing up without a father, inferiority, shame, and violence were surrounding him on all fronts, and they were soon going to impact Michael and Ruth in unimaginable ways.
Why did Francis drop out of school?
Francis worked hard to complete the carpentry classes, but his heart wasn’t into it. All the cool friends he had were involved in music or were busy chasing away members of other gangs who were encroaching on their area. Francis wasn’t personally involved in a gang, but he didn’t find it repulsive either. It was his reality. Ruth had given the boys a completely different value system, which had faded, blown away by the strong winds of perceived cultural norms. One significant incident in the brothers‘ growing years was when Ruth had gone off to work, and Francis and Michael saw the news on television of two men having robbed the store. The brothers saw disturbing footage where one of the robbers shot the store owner. Something changed in Francis that day. It left an indelible mark on him, as he told Ruth that they weren’t safe because of the ‘black men on TV.’ He had imbibed a sense of violence, and the media around him had reinforced its connection to his cultural and racial identity. Maybe the music world Francis was getting wildly fascinated by was also a by-product of the contemporary value system. He couldn’t see himself working a day job as a carpenter. To be somebody, in this world, he felt he needed to break out as a great musician. So just three months before he completed his course, he stormed out of the class after blurting out expletives to his teacher when he was only asking Francis to pay more attention to his work.
Why did Francis move out of the house?
After he quit school or, more likely, was expelled for his behavior, Ruth slapped Francis. It wasn’t the slap that did the damage, though. Francis had grown up with a sense of incompleteness. He had to be a role model for Michael. Where were Francis’ role models? Throughout his childhood, he wanted to search for his father but couldn’t. He struggled with his identity, which is why he carried Ruth’s Jamaican passport around. Francis felt stuck in the house while life passed him by in stupid carpentry classes or as he was cleaning dirty aisles in a supermarket. He did some odd jobs, but he knew he had to get into the music scene, which is why he befriended Jelly, a local DJ. Michael was growing up to be his own person, and Francis just couldn’t stay in the house any longer, sharing the room with him. He had plans to go away and try his luck in the music business with Jelly. Unrelated to Francis’ ambitious plans, there was a gang war going on. Michael had seen one of Francis’ friends beat up a man in the park, and he saw the same man in his neighborhood with his own gang. He probably came back for revenge. Michael and Francis saw a shootout with their own eyes and were apprehended by the police. Francis almost got shot in an attempt to help his wounded friend. Ruth, who had worked so hard to keep the boys out of trouble, saw her two sons get out of a police car. The reputation that she had built was tarnished in a heartbeat. This incident fast-tracked Francis’ departure. He left the house in search of his true identity. It was more of an escape. He tried to make something of himself, but the violent antagonism and lack of guidance ensured his story came to a tragic end.
‘Brother’ Ending Explained: How Did Francis’s Death Impact Michael?
While Francis took off on his journey, Michael lost his only male role model. Francis was his pillar of strength. Although he grew up in his shadow, he couldn’t find his own voice. He liked Aisha, a girl in class, but whenever Francis was around, he lost the little flare he had. He didn’t resent his brother for this, but there was definitely some anxiety in him. Now that Francis was gone, Michael seemed all the more unsure of himself. Even when Francis gave him a ride in Jelly’s car that he passed off as his own, Michael found it tough to express himself. He received ‘the talk’ by Francis about how Michael had to undergo a transformation and not give away the fact that they are who they are. It was terrible advice coming from a person who was low on self-esteem and had a profound sense of identity crisis. He thought that the real world around him was not seeing him as worthy of being somebody, and it was rigged against him. Francis’ advice was coming from a place of insecurity and an inferiority complex, but Michael knew nothing better. Francis had found out information about his father’s whereabouts and tried to reunite with him. He took Michael as well, but their father didn’t want to do anything with them. Such rejection made him feel like somebody was rejecting his soul. It started to take a toll on him.
When he went to a music audition with Jelly, he was rejected there as well, but this time, Francis couldn’t handle it. He got beat up by the security guards after he tried to barge in to talk to the producer in order to give him his contact number. The police arrived, and yet again, he was perceived and treated as a criminal. This time, he rejected all caution and ended up getting shot. He died on the spot, leaving Ruth forever scarred. Michael, who was experiencing his first love with Aisha, ended everything and instantly grew old before his time. He had to look after his mother, and he took on all the responsibility. The shooting was deemed lawful, and there was nothing he could do.
Maybe Michael will find out that Jelly and Francis were lovers. Francis’ death didn’t just impact his relationship with Aisha. Jelly was also left bereft of love. The most dreadful impact was on Ruth, who lost her mind after hearing the news. She loved both boys, and although she was a strong woman, she couldn’t withstand a loss of this magnitude. It was one thing that Francis did not live with her, but not having him in this world was such a painful experience that she was never the same. Aisha and Jelly returned years later to reconnect with Francis’ family, and Michael at first just wanted to be left alone, but later saw that Ruth’s condition improved with them around.
Michael had a joyless existence after Francis’ death. He couldn’t abandon his mother, as he didn’t want to be like his father, nor could he go away on his own adventure, as he had the responsibility of looking after Ruth. He aged in an instant and didn’t have the luxury of finding his true identity. Seeing what happened to his brother, he would now not dare to dream big, but perhaps he could allow love and joy back into his life. He had done his duty as a responsible son, and now, perhaps, he could be back with Aisha. More than that, he allowed himself to be part of a community again. From Michael’s point of view, the same community had let Francis down.
The music community, including Jelly, was seen as a bad influence on Francis, which attracted him to the blingy lifestyle and made him forget his path. Michael may have felt that it was why Francis felt inadequate. Perhaps even Ruth didn’t fully understand his dilemmas. The boys were haunted by the absence of a father, but Ruth never told them about his identity. Then, finally, there was the police brutality. All of these factors made Michael go into a shell. Years later, when Ruth was in a hospital, Michael cried profusely, which may just symbolize that he had processed his grief and was ready to let the anger go. He wasn’t going to let it destroy him. Whatever happened to Francis was tragic, no doubt, but he did make some bad choices. He dropped out of school, didn’t want to work hard like Ruth, and had associations with gang members. Michael was finally at peace, and he remembered the good times he had with his brother, which was the best way to honor his memory.