My Brother Tom

Similar in some ways to Kirsten Sheridan’s recent, over-hyped Disco Pigs, this film is an altogether more successful attempt at portraying the fantasy life created by a pair of outsiders in order to inure themselves from the hardships and pains of their everyday lives. Jessica is an ordinary teenage girl who comes across the feral Tom being bullied by a local gang in the woods where he spends most of his time. A tentative friendship begins, which is intensified when Jess is sexually assaulted by an ostensible ‘friend of the family’. Director Dom Rotheroe manages to turn many of the visual limitations of digital filming to good advantage, with the murkiness of the images often strengthening the feel of the grubby fantasy world created by his characters. The understated fairytale elements to the story, in the manner of Hansel and Gretel, or more aptly, Babes in the Woods, lend an eloquent lyricism to the piece. Central to the film’s success, however, are the superb central performances from Jenna Harrison and especially Ben Whishaw, who portrays Tom’s pain so well that one cannot help but feel sympathy. This is one of the strongest British debuts for some time.
U.K., 2001. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 111 mins.

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