Sibling Rivalries

In the third film from director Carl Bessai’s series on familial relationships, Sisters & Brothers shares with us the confrontations between siblings. The film follows four different stories involving some tension between sibling-pairs. In one, a sister copes with her brother’s schizophrenia and provides unconditional love and care, while questioning when is enough. Glee’s Cory Monteith stars in another with Dustin Milligan, as brothers who need to iron out issues after their parents separated and Monteith’s character became a big Hollywood celebrity. Another story covers the resentment between half-sisters and the rekindling of their bond after an intense road trip. Last but not least, a teenage girl must deal with the sudden appearance of an older sister from India, after 17 years of being the only child in the family. Sisters & Brothers definitely provides a comical look at the bittersweetness of brother(s) and sister(s) relationships.

It is interesting to note that the fate of the stories and the film was in the hands of the actors. Since the actors were only provided with a sketch of their characters and with no script, it was up to them to add depth their characters and to develop monologues and dialogues through improvisation. As the actors played off each other, there was a sense of realness that was captured throughout the film. Viewers can vicariously experience the siblings’ love and anger.

Carl Bessai’s filmography includes Mothers & Daughters (2008) and Fathers & Sons (2010), both shown at VIFF in previous years. Bessai won the Audience Favourite Award for Mothers & Daughters in 2008, which he then used the prize money to create Fathers & Sons. Sisters & Brothers is the third film of this series and is a low-budget film featuring local actors. In the Q&A, Bessai explains that he will not attempt other relationship, because most people are someone’s mother, daughter, sister, father, son, or brother, but not other combinations.

Athena Wong

Sisters & Brothers
British Columbia, 2011
Dir: Carl Bessai