Michael J Long
Michael J Long, Tom Sidney
You'll see a pretty damn savage beating in this movie before you've even figured out who the main characters are, which certainly establishes the tone of what you're in store for real quick. Michael J. Long's 'micro budget' film prepares you for maximum drama instantly as you get into the gritty story of two brothers, Adam and Liam, who have ended up living completely different lives by comparison.
No joke, for a film that proclaims to be 'micro budget' up front, I've endured many movies over the years that would love to do this much with so little. Long's done an exceptional job of getting the most bang for his buck, and directors could learn a lot from how he's made "Baby Brother." He's smartly invested in a great story, undiscovered talents who are amazing and made use of techniques like shooting the past in black & white and going full-color for the present. "Baby Brother" is by no means any kind of ordinary family drama; it's harsh, intense, vulnerable, honest, and unapologetic in how it shows the fractured emotions of its main characters. You'll see how everyone attempts to shield Liam from the brutality of the world and how that's left him in a somewhat childlike state, whereas Adam has clearly grown up all too quickly & it has kept him in fight or flight mode permanently. The present-day scenes are powerful – we know things have obviously happened in the past to make them who they are now, but we see how hurt they've both become long before we piece it all together.
Adam might not have a lot going for him, but he definitely cares about Liam and has a crystal clear understanding of how the odds of life have been stacked against them both, even if his "Baby Brother" has no real concept of how difficult the world can be to navigate. When they have the chance to spend a little time together, they're argumentative, playful, and extremely animated. They're brothers at the end of the day, and the familial bond is unbreakable, no matter how strained it seems to have become. You have to imagine how both of these kids tried hard to be the best versions of themselves - and failed.
While we don't spend a ton of time with the supporting cast, they should all be commended for the roles that they play, and Long should be ecstatic over the results he's achieved all around. From scenes like where you see the two brothers sneak into a theater to crash a private rehearsal - to moments like meeting Raphael and Charlotte in the present - or meeting old friends on public transit – every piece adds more to the puzzle and shows us how Liam is going down the same dark path that Adam has already spent too much time on. Adam can help Liam avoid so much of the pain he's experienced in life, and we genuinely believe that he wants to – but the question becomes, will he? Adam's had multiple chances to do the right thing in life and so rarely seems to succeed in that regard. The scenes with their mother are particularly harrowing, and as we flash between the timelines, we understand how the past takes an incredible toll on the present and leaves trauma nothing can erase.
As the story progresses, we realize just how out of control Adam truly is, and it's fair to say that we see he's not the person that should be trying to help Liam live his life right; it gets so serious that we have no choice but to wonder if the older brother in this story is beyond redemption and past the point of no return. Adam has done terrible, unforgivable things, and the walls are closing in around him. We start to wonder if he can be of any good to anyone, let alone Liam, who so desperately needs some guidance. "Baby Brother" Liam might still have a chance in life, but Adam is wickedly aggressive, toxic, and scary.
I cannot say enough about what I've seen in this film – it's shocking, clever, and award-worthy. Long put the characters first, let the story breathe and tell itself in a very natural way, and made incredible use of the two main timelines - past and present. As far as the movie is concerned, so much of this rests on the shoulders of Paddy Rowan (as Adam) and Brian Comer (as Liam), and they both should be lauded for delivering in every single scene we see. There are virtually no weak points in the acting - whether it's a lead or supporting character, and the story itself is perfectly crafted. Does its 'micro budget' nature hurt this film? Not one iota, as far as I could tell. I honestly don't think more money would have made "Baby Brother" any better than it already is, and that's perhaps the best compliment I can pay to its cast and to Long. Co-written by Tom Sidney, "Baby Brother" is one of those films you'll never forget seeing, and by the time you reach its finale, you'll feel your stomach churning with each twist and turn it makes.
"Baby Brother" will have you wondering how much control we really have over who we become - and considering whether or not going through similar circumstances could turn us into people that we never thought we'd be…and I ain't gonna lie to ya, it's frightening to even think about. There is precious little, if anything, that could have been improved here, though any director or writer will tell ya there's always something. I'm gonna give "Baby Brother" an easy four & a half stars out of five while noting that this is by far and away the closest I've felt about giving a movie a perfect score since I started reviewing them. It's practically perfect by every conceivable definition! I couldn't take my eyes off of this movie, and I feel like I came out of this just as permanently scarred as its main characters by the time it was all over. It's rare to be this excited about a film that's so bloody devastating, but here we are, and that's the case – "Baby Brother" is brilliant from start to finish and one of the greatest movies that I've seen this year.