My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett, 1983)

My Brother’s Wedding (Charles Burnett, 1983)

A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?  –Proverbs 18:14

In a room lit only by a green-shaded lamp, the dim glow shines on the faces of two men and a woman. The woman and one man share a mechanical laugh together as they discuss in a near zombie-like quality how much they enjoyed the recently told joke. The other man stands by the window, distant, uninterested. The two men are brothers, and the woman one brother’s fiancée. And despite these brother’s being in an unbroken family, this is a broken family, and it’s illustrated no more perfectly than in this seemingly random scene – a dream, a memory, or perhaps just another chapter in the reality of cold familial relationships for our protagonist.

my brother's wedding

Many call this is a film about a man who just can’t quite get his life together. I think it’s a film about a man who has been slowly chipped away over the years by his relatives. The constant jabs about his work ethic and place in the world while giving him no praise for what seems to be a very willingly giving spirit have put him in a place where his one truly loving friend is who he views as real family, despite the friend being in and out of jail and trouble constantly. So as the film’s final scenes unfold, everything happens exactly as you expect, but it’s no less poignant as a result. If anything it’s even more tragic watching things continuously spiral out of control. Overall this honest life depiction is Burnett’s best and most complete work. Having seen the original 1983 version, I can’t imagine what he could have possibly cut out to trim 35 minutes for the director’s cut. But I recommend spending the extra time and seeing the original.  9/10


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