Sibling rivalry

Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli's My Brother Is an Only Child

REVIEW This week most San Francisco cineastes will be focused on the International Film Festival — but please don't let this Italian import, one of the best in years, leave town before you catch it. Cowritten (with director Daniele Luchetti) by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli of the fantastic Best of Youth (2003), the film shares that four-hour epic's ability to pare decades of roiling postwar Italian political history into an absorbing personal drama. Accio (Elio Germano) is the youngest child, perpetually at odds with everyone in his poor family. He is a natural contrarian and zealot — first as a divinity student too self-righteously pious even for the priests to bear, then as an avid member of the Fascist Party. (His hometown is the small central Italian city Latina, a one-time party stronghold founded during the Mussolini era that previously had been an undrained swamp.) Those proclivities, not exactly fashionable in the story's 1960s and '70s setting, particularly exasperate Accio's brother Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio, one of those Italian men who are so good-looking they almost constitute a traffic hazard), a charismatic born leader who becomes increasingly involved in the Communist Party and underground radical actions. Still, blood is thicker than water — and by the end we realize this famiglia's constant yelling and slapping are as much forms of affection as anything else. And the siblings do have something else in common, namely a jones for Manrico's upper-class girlfriend Francesca (Diane Fleri). My Brother has been compared to Italian leftist classics like Marco Bellochio's Fist in His Pocket (1965) and Bernardo Bertolucci's Before the Revolution (1964), no doubt largely because its manically malcontent protagonist — an indelible performance by Germano — and almost too-hyperactive imagery echo their restless intellectual agitprop. Fortunately, this is too warmly human a drama to share those films' Godardian paternity.

MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD opens Fri/25 in Bay Area theaters.

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