The affable Jim Sheridan held court at the Monkey Bar last Monday, talking about his new movie, to open this Friday. Given that the first rate Brothers is a redo of a 2004 Danish film directed by Susanne Bier, now set in the America that continues to deploy troops to Afghanistan, you would not necessarily tap this Dublin-based director -- no matter how distinguished his track record for such superb films as My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, and In America -- for this job, but producer Ryan Kavanagh insisted that Sheridan direct -- with excellent results.
This smart and gripping drama concerns the Cahill brothers, Sam (Tobey Maguire), a decorated Marine about to go off for his next tour and Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) a ne'er do well just out of prison. Sam Shepard, plays their father, an ex-Marine himself who denies his own problems with alcohol and makes no effort to repress his favoritism among his sons. Let's say, Freud hovers here. Sam has married his high school sweetheart Grace (Natalie Portman), more than once noted as gorgeous -- and she is. Portman's child career included her star turn with Jean Reno in The Professional (1994) and on Broadway, the teen Anne Frank. In this movie about what happens in a Midwest family when the husband/father is presumed dead, Grace makes a transition as the mother of two girls, and indeed, a special pleasure of this movie is seeing her as a grown up, as well as these brothers as family men.
Leaning into our table while the lunch crowd enjoyed the signature Monkey Bar burgers, Sheridan recounted a defining moment from his past: when he was a teen, his 10 year old brother died of a brain tumor. Ostensibly, the war may be an utterly American subject, but closely observed through Sheridan's lens, it is about families. Despite some brutal scenes in Afghan caves, like in The Messenger, Brothers brings the war home, to an undercurrent of violent emotion that threatens more profoundly than any battle on foreign ground. If you look at Jim Sheridan's body of work, it is all about putting families back together.
Expect to see Jim Sheridan on Best Director lists, and these stars nominated for Best Actor Oscars. In the meantime, Sheridan is off to Toronto to begin filming Dream House with Daniel Craig.