Brothers’ Nest review: deeply dark Australian thriller channels the Coen brothers

Brothers’ Nest is the latest outing from the sibling pair behind the seminal Aussie comedy Kenny, Clayton and Shane Jacobson. The only similarity it has with the delightful and jovial merchant of toilet humour is that this deeply dark film also clings to you like an inescapable stench. The rare splashes of comedy in this desperate tragedy are suffocated by the arresting desperation and apathy of the central characters.

While this twisted tale has been drawing convenient comparisons to the work of the Coen Brothers, Brothers’ Nest makes Blood Simple look like The Wizard of Oz.

When Jeff (Clayton Jacobson) and Terry (Shane Jacobson)  discover that their mother (Lynette Curran) has mere months to live, and that their family home is destined to land in the hands of their stepfather (Kim Gyngell), the brother’s orchestrate a wicked plan to regain what they feel is rightfully theirs.

The influences of the Coen Brothers and especially Fargo are felt in every breath of Brothers’ Nest. The opening score, strings bowed with a precise indelicacy, accompanies images of isolated rural roads being traced with patience. No, it’s not Carter Burwell (who frequently scores Coen Brothers films) but it sure as heck sounds like it: composer Richard Pleasance.

Director Clayton Jacobson and cinematographer Peter Falk present the family home as if there’s death on the premises, long before anything transpires in the film. This weather-beaten shack has seen better days. The house that Terry and Jeff’s father committed suicide in is surrounded by the carcasses of 50 rust buckets, none of which will ever be restored to their former glory.

Their stepfather has collected hundreds of antique radios and carefully displayed and catalogued them in the house; like prisoners who want to sing but have their tongues cut out. Jacobson makes this home feel like it’s whispering insidious messages to the characters. The camera regularly exits the home for ominous appraisal of this dilapidated ‘jewel’ that they may be willing to kill for.

I found myself shuffling in my seat at the casual apathy of this deeply, psychologically wounded pairing.

While this may be billed as a black comedy, the laughs are shrouded in a deeply disturbing affair. Writer Jaime Browne attempts to extract a kind of gallows humour out of murderous intent, but this simply does not land. Instead I found myself shuffling in my seat at the casual apathy of this deeply, psychologically wounded pairing.

Gyngell, the wildly talented and enduring character actor, is unforgettably authentic as Roger. Weather-beaten garb, tobacco stained facial hair and his lined face can’t hide piercing eyes in a heightened state of awareness. Brothers’ Nest is a showcase of the breadth of talent of the brother’s Jacobson.

Clayton’s direction is deeply impactful and unflinching in its portrayal of violence, and crafts arresting human performances from Gyngell, Curran and Shane. Shane’s performance as Terry is a career-best slow burn; showcasing precision timing, empathy, and conveying the unfathomable weight of death. Overall Brothers’ Nest is a well made, nasty piece of work.