BROTHERS OF THE HEAD
THUMBS UP MOCKUMENTARY FILM REVIEW RATING!
Deceiving audiences is risky business when it comes to films. You don’t want to anger the watchers by pulling the wool over their eyes in an effort to show how naive they are. But if you do it right, and entertain them without this intent, you can pull magic out of a hat.
BROTHERS OF THE HEAD (an IFC film) is a slice of fiction shot in documentary format. It is done so convincingly (including interviews with the author of the actual novel, Brian Wilson Aldiss) that if someone wasn’t aware of the film’s machinations, they could easily be fooled. Although the characters and situations are completely fictitious, the era and locations and industry it portrays certainly are not.
The basic premise is that of exploitation for money and fame. Some people have no morals and will do anything to make dollars, including putting conjoined twins up on a music stage in an effort to expose the strange and bizarre; a circus act of music. The young boys’ names are Tom and Harry Howe (real life twin brothers Harry and Luke Treadaway). Their mother having died at birth, the boys are swept into isolation by their protective father and their older sister. But reality sinks in as the father realizes the boys must earn a viable living somehow. When an unscrupulous entertainment guru approaches the father with a significant contract offer, the father jumps on it and the boys are sent away and taught to sing and play guitar.
The British punk-rock movement of the early 70s is in full swing and the Howe brothers melt into it like heroin on a hot spoon. Their odd Siamese connection is exploited to the max, and audiences (particularly young women) fawn over the unusual pair.
Interviews with lovers, managers, supposed friends, and even the fake documentary maker are driven home with painful results. The boys are seen initially as creatures, but soon they are transformed into stars. Drugs, sex, smoking, alcohol, all become part of their daily existence as they sink further and further into a world they were never prepared for.
The mockumentary utilizes flashbacks to great advantage, showing "the head" (the location where the boys grew up) in increasingly muted and shadowed tones. It’s also noteworthy to mention that "the head" has two distinct definitions: the first being their birthplace, and the second being a fetal head growing out of Barry’s shoulder. This second head is only touched on, mentioning that it may very well be the downfall of the boys thanks to its cancerous nature.
But the boys aren’t brought down by cancer or drugs. They succumb to the world of fame the way many rising stars do.
The ending is touching and not just a bit frightening. We know from the beginning that the boys will die (everyone refers to them in past tense from the get-go), but the manner in which they die is lonely and bitter.
There’s a lot to love about this film. The British punk-rock music of the 70s is authentic (if somewhat hard to understand), and the Treadaway brothers pull in Oscar-caliber performances. The fact that some movie watchers will continue pondering the reality of the film incorporates a significant "Wow" factor.