Family. Love them or hate them, we all just have to learn to get along the best we can.
In his first feature film since the 2006 breakout comedy Kenny, Clayton Jacobson has returned to the director’s chair for Brothers’ Nest, a dark comedy that’s out to prove that’s not always the case. This time, he’s also in front of the camera, starring alongside his brother Shane (the titular Kenny) in what should be remembered as one of the best Australian films of the decade.
The Jacobsons play siblings Jeff (Clayton) and Terry (Shane), two deadbeat forty-somethings who plan to commit the perfect murder in order to protect their childhood home from being sold. They claim to be doing so in order to preserve their deceased father’s legacy, but as the pair reflect on the family’s past, it becomes clear at least one of them has a far less honourable motive.
Brothers’ Nest is a complete departure from the crowd-pleasing mockumentary that made the brothers household names, but they show no signs of being out of their element. While there is some humour still to be found, this is ultimately a pitch black thriller, likely to draw comparisons with the early work of the Coen brothers, as well as 2010’s Animal Kingdom (which Clayton appeared in).
Not only is it fantastically dark, but also refreshingly clever. This isn’t the first film to suggest its characters have concocted a way to execute a perfect murder, but in the hands of Jacobson and writer Jaime Browne (2014’s The Mule) it never feels contrived. Jeff has done his homework; he’s scheduled out the entire plan, considered multiple scenarios, and mailed their phones interstate to provide them with an alibi. It may be their childhood home, but he’s careful not to leave any traces of their visit, going so far as to warn Terry about investigators’ ability to differentiate between old and new DNA when he tries to use the toilet (though even he doesn’t seem convinced by the explanation).
As they prepare, Jeff tells Terry not to make the night “too emotional”. It’s a curious warning considering what they are there to do. The night does get very emotional, especially as they’re forced to adapt to some surprising eventualities, but the Jacobsons performances remain strong throughout. Credit especially goes to Shane, who navigates some traumatic moments that a less capable actor might have let slip into melodrama.
Shot entirely on the family property, Brothers’ Nest maintains a consistent eeriness thanks to Peter Falk’s cinematography. A couple of moments of supernatural symbolism amplify the atmosphere, but for the most part it feels like a familiar home, much to the film’s benefit.
Though it may not end up being as successful as Clayton’s debut due to its dark tone, Brothers’ Nest has the makings of an Australian classic. Intelligent, atmospheric, and finely acted, it’s a must-see for fans of the genre.
Brothers’ Nest releases Australia-wide on June 21st.