My Brother The Devil review: Brotherly love turns this tale of London"s hoodies devilishly good

Brotherly love turns this tale of London's hoodies devilishly good



08:20 GMT, 9 November 2012


Verdict: Huggable hoodies

My Brother The Devil is a very promising debut by Sally El Hosaini — who’s from Welsh-Egyptian stock — with an eye-catching central performance by James Floyd, also of mixed British parentage.

It tells the story of two Anglo-Egyptian teenage brothers growing up on a high-rise council estate in Hackney, East London.

These young and relatively huggable hoodies encounter lots of things familiar in dozens of other British movies: gangs, the lure of peddling drugs, unemployment.

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East-Enders: Fady Elsayed, left, and James Floyd play two brothers of Welsh-Egyptian descent growing up in London

East-Enders: Fady Elsayed, left, and James Floyd play two brothers of Welsh-Egyptian descent growing up in London

Moralists may not warm to the elder brother’s willingness to embrace drug-pushing (‘I earn more money than my dad!’). And older cinema-goers may feel they’ve seen similar material approached more thrillingly in slicker American movies such as Boyz N The Hood.

But the core of the story — and the reason it isn’t overfamiliar or depressing — is the love between immature 14-year-old Mo (Fady Elsayed) and the elder brother and dubious role model he worships, Rashid (Floyd).

As their relationship comes under stress, El Hosaini shows mature understanding of her central characters and a wonderful eye for composition. She has already won awards at Sundance, Berlin, Milan and the London Film Festival.

She deserved them — and she’s a talent to watch.

However, she’s not yet the finished article. Her story-telling is not as clear as it might be, and she isn’t good on pace. She takes an hour to set up place and characters, which will test the patience of audiences and limit the film’s commercial prospects. Her 111-minute movie would have been even better, and a lot more popular, had it run at 90.

But once the film really gets going — with the dramatic catalyst of a French-Egyptian photographer who’s just migrated from Paris (Said Taghmaoui) — it becomes a winning mixture of Bullet Boy and My Beautiful Laundrette, and not nearly as dreary or dispiriting as you may fear.

Now watch the trailer