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  Brothers of the Head Music In Our Message
Year: 2006
Director: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe
Stars: Harry Treadaway, Luke Treadaway, Bryan Dick, Sean Harris, Tania Emery, Diana Kent, Howard Attfield, Elizabeth Rider, Ken Bones, Tom Bower, Ken Russell, Jonathan Pryce, John Simm, Jane Horrocks, Jeffrey Wickham, Tom Sturridge, Edward Hogg, Brian Aldiss
Genre: Musical, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Largely forgotten now, conjoined twin brothers Tom (Harry Treadaway) and Barry (Luke Treadaway) Howe looked like being a fresh new talent on the British music scene of the nineteen-seventies, yet it was not to be. Their mother died when they were born, so their father, unwilling for them to be separated in case he lost more members of his family, refused permission for the operation. As it was, they grew up in an isolated part of England with their sister Roberta (Elizabeth Rider) until showbusiness came knocking on their door when they grew up, thanks to agent Zak (Howard Attfield) who thought he was onto a winner with performing twins who were joined at the chest. However, the boys were unable to cope with approaching fame and tragedy was looming...

Yet another entry in the mockumentary genre, Brothers of the Head took itself very seriously indeed, inviting us to share the pain and alienation of its protagonists. Adapted from the novel by Brian Aldiss, it was screenwritten by Tony Grisoni (a Terry Gilliam associate) and adopts the clich├ęs of the documentary medium, such as extensive use of archive footage which never quite convinces the viewer they're watching events from the mid-seventies. There are talking heads too, including Aldiss and Ken Russell who, it is claimed, attempted an ultimately failed biopic of the brothers, footage of which is on show here starring briefly seen Brit stars like Jonathan Pryce, John Simm and Jane Horrocks.

The cast are well selected, with younger actors depicting the seventies versions of characters we see interviewed in the twenty-first century, played by older lookalikes. You can't fault the method, but something irks about the Howe brothers' music, sounding like punk even though the film is set too early in the decade. We see them practicing the guitar, only Tom picks it up and the less patient Barry throws it across the room - it's settled then, Barry will be the singer. Showing self awareness, there's a strong reference to a previous, real life conjoined twins act, Daisy Hilton and Violet Hilton, but where they appeared in variety, these two aim for dingy clubs where they can launch their aggressive, guitar-driven rock at a dazzled audience.

It should really sound like pub rock, but I suppose punk is easier to pastiche, so punk it is. Music apart, the atmosphere is a gloomy one, as the usual conventions of the rock movie make themselves felt, although here we may be told that the brothers are making waves, but all we see of it is yet more footage of their gigs. The world outside their orbit may have been too expensive to stage, but we never see so much as an album cover or spinning single, not even a sniff of a montage of the brothers performing on chat shows. There's an interesting theme about the act of shooting a documentary being deeply intrusive and whether the subject's disability makes such a film exploitative, but this is eventually muted in favour of drugs and sex bringing down the Barry and Tom relationship. By the end of the journey, you don't feel you've travelled very far, as if the novelty has been swamped by the hackneyed narrative. Music by Clive Langer.

[The Tartan Region 2 DVD has deleted scenes and a trailer as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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