One adult sibling, Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), is the designated screwup in the gripping, politically grounded family drama Brothers. The other, Michael (Kingdom of Heaven‘s Ulrich Thomsen), is the good son, a responsible husband and father himself whose duty as a Danish military man sends him to Afghanistan. When his helicopter crashes, Michael is presumed dead, leaving behind a grieving wife, Sarah (Gladiator star Connie Nielsen), and two young daughters. And in Michael’s absence, Jannik — just recently out of prison, a drinker, a flake — finds a new sense of purpose, and emotional connection, in helping Sarah and the girls.
To say more would erode the power of director Susanne Bier’s expressive storytelling, which accomplishes the rare feat of believably incorporating violence in another part of the world into an intimate study of shifting domestic relationships. We do live in a fraught world of interconnections, Bier makes clear, and what happens far away matters, in unexpected ways, close to home. The fine script is by Anders Thomas Jensen, who also wrote Bier’s lovely previous film, Open Hearts. In that one, the filmmaker set herself the challenge of employing Dogma aesthetics without harping on Dogma aesthetics. Now (unDogmatically) as then, her interest is first and foremost in action and consequence — in things that matter.