Based on French writer Marie-Aude Murail’s children’s book Simple, Goller’s comedy-drama My Brother Simple takes a more serious look at the mental and physical strains of caring for someone with a disability.
The film follows the journey of Ben (Frederick Lau) and his brother Simple (David Kross), who has a mental disability. In his desperation to prevent Simple from ending up in an institution following the death of their single mother, Ben takes him on a hitchhiking journey to the German city Hamburg. There, Ben attempts to convince his estranged father to grant him legal guardianship of his brother.
Along the way we meet an Eastern European truck driver who reveals he has a son with Down syndrome, a prostitute with “expensive tits”, and student doctor Aria, who lets Ben and Simple crash at her apartment for a couple of nights.
My Brother Simple is a feel-good film that pulls heartstrings but struggles to live up to its promise. It feels like the supporting characters are exaggerated; they either emphatically accept Simple’s differences or cruelly treat him as an outcast – there is no in-between.
Some scenes also seem disconnected from the rest of the film, including one in which Aria asks Ben if he would like to play a video game with her and he quickly declines, citing his apparent lack of skill as a reason.
Goller’s greatest achievement is his casting. Kross brings to life a character with a severe mental disability with believability and empathy. Lau is also commendable, especially during Ben’s moments of emotional vulnerability.
My Brother Simple has its faults, but it remains a touching tribute to the carers whose thankless work often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated in society.
My Brother Simple is showing at Palace Nova Eastend as part of the German Film Festival, with screenings on various dates until June 10.
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