Review of: My Brothers Keeper (v.4) 

reviewed by andrewkula on 10/17/2007
Credited Review
andrewkula
As promised... Credited Review
Bob,

I think you've done a nice job of finding a unique angle for this Spanish Civil War story. You've got some strong action scenes - the bridge fight sequence and the church ambush are both really visual and engaging. I think Michael is a compelling, sympathetic character, and Sofia has a great complexity since both of her dual-lives require such drastically different behavior. The story had good pacing and strong dialogue throughout, and your battle/murder scenes give an honest portrayal of violence rather than sensationalizing it. I think Sean's promotion is a nice twist in the story, and a good way to bring about his corruption. So, there's a lot to like in this script. I do have some suggestions, though.

1. Since the core of the story is the brothers' relationship, I think we should see more of them together, especially once they get to Spain. They arrive at the camp, and the focus shifts from them to Sofia & the Fascists and the politics of the Spanish Civil War. It's important to know the situation that these guys are in, but the heart of the story is about Michael's struggle to save Sean (both from physical danger and his own internal corruption). The themes of the story should focus on the dynamic of that brother-brother relationship. Two scenes that really nailed their dynamic were their first reunion scene (Michael hits Sean with his pillow) and the beach scene (where they go swimming toward the end). Otherwise, their relationship can be hard to grasp; they seem close, but it's hard to tell why Sean is worth fighting for. Michael has grown up with Sean for 20 years, so he knows Sean's redeeming qualities, but we as the audience get only a few glimpses into Sean's nicer side. Which brings me to...

2. Sean's character. We see him as a vicious killer from the get-go, so there isn't enough development or room to sympathize with him. I would suggest that his first few acts of violence are less heartless but still incriminating so they can contrast more with this cold-blooded murders toward the end. Instead of retaliating for a street-fight and shooting up a poker game, maybe he should be responding to a threat against his family. Instead of chasing down the fleeing soldier, maybe he could kill him to protect Michael or Jack. If the first two killing scenes were more justifiable, Sean's character will be more human and easier to relate to. This could make his decline into the hatred and violence of military power more tragic and less expected.

3. I think the scene where Cordelia turns Michael away from her door could use some work. This should be the kind of rejection that really rips his heart out because it should be strong (and permanent) enough to free him up for this voyage to Spain. Are there any visuals or action here to make it more compelling? Also, it seems like his decision to follow Sean comes only after Cordelia rejects him. I think it should be motivated by his relationship with Sean more than his relationship with Cordelia. You may want to build a stronger connection to Sean's need for protection and Michael's willingness to go. Maybe Cordelia's rejection scene should go before Michael asks the priest for help. Then Father McCallan could tell him that if he wants a guardian to look after after his brother, he'd better do it yourself because you'll get no help from God.

4. Sofia spends a lot of time at the rebel camp, and I wonder how she manages that without compromising her identity to the fascists. How does she get away to help with the training? For the ambush in San Pedro? Is she not expected to work for Garcia every day? How would she get away without raising suspicion? The housekeeper spy in "Pan's Labyrinth" is a good example of having trouble contributing to the anti-Franco movement because of her closeness to officers. I think Sofia can work well, but we need to know how she manages to keep her loyalties secret.

5. You may want to reorganize the last few scenes. The main story line is what goes on with Michael and Sean, so one killing the other should be the climax of the story. Putting Michael and Sofia in a standoff with nationalist troops at Sofia's mother's house seems like an unnecessary and extra climax scene. It's a good scene, but it could work better before the real climax (Michael shoots Sean).

Kudos on a strong story and interesting characters, Bob. This was a good read. I hope my suggestions are helpful for you, and I wish you best of luck with your revisions. Let me know if you have any questions or want more specific feedback. Keep up the good work!

- Andy

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