July 6, 2006
Let's get it out the way right now, the blurb that will be quoted after this review is run: "If you see nothing else this summer, watch 'Brotherhood.' "
While I never consciously try to arrange a review so that quotes can easily be lifted, "Brotherhood" deserves every boost it can get. It's that good. No, it's better. This new Showtime series has it all: fine acting, superb cinematography, nimble directing and a fascinating world full of ethical ambiguities and constantly shifting moral ground.
Blake Masters, series creator and writer of five of the 11 episodes, including the premiere, doesn't shrink from the dilemma of problems without solutions and compromises without acceptance; he embraces them. What's more, the gray area his characters inhabit is perfectly matched to the muted colors of their environment, the well-worn Irish area of Providence, R.I., known as the Hill.
As the title suggests, "Brotherhood" is about two brothers. The younger sibling, Tommy Caffee (Jason Clarke), is a family man with ideals and a sense of community that helped win him a seat in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. The independence he prizes, ironically, turns out to be his most valuable bartering chip in the scratch-my-back legislative halls.
The older brother, Michael Caffee (Jason Isaacs), has been a thug since he was a schoolboy. Fearing for his life, he left the area seven years earlier. In the premiere, he suddenly reappears, ready to resume his stealth ascent to the top of the criminal ladder.
Tommy's wife, Eileen (Annabeth Gish), fears Michael's presence, and with good reason. The seemingly perfect politician's wife, deep down she yearns for escape. Then there's Rose Caffee (Fionnula Flanagan), Tommy and Michael's mother, the neighborhood matriarch whose fierce maternal instinct lets her overlook and excuse anything Michael does. With eyes half shut, she continues to be proud of both her boys.
There are other memorable characters, too, nearly all of them remarkably textured for supporting players and particularly well-cast. Together, they reflect a reality far more complex than is usually seen on TV. It's a reality that speaks to the collision of interests, the dispersal of power and the impossibility of effective compromise. When a series comes along with all that, you owe it to yourself to watch.
Executive producers: Blake Masters, Henry Bromell, Elizabeth Guber Stephen
Co-executive producers: Nicole Yorkin, Dawn Prestwich, Phillip Noyce
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer/creator: Blake Masters
Directors of photography: Ernest holzman, Ron Fortunato
Production designer: Chad Detwiller
Editors: Terry Kelley, Anthony Redman, Neil Travis, Adam Wolfe
Original score: Jeff Rona
Set decorator: Kyra Friedman-Curcio
Casting: Carolyn Pickman, Mele Nagler, Matthew Barry, Nancy Green-Keyes, Pat McCorkle
Michael Caffee: Jason Isaacs
Tommy Caffee: Jason Clarke
Eileen Caffee: Annabeth Gish
Rose Caffee: Fionnula Flanagan
Declan Giggs: Ethan Embry
Pete McGonagle: Stivi Paskoski
Freddie Cork: Kevin Chapman
Mary Rose Caffee: Fiona Erickson
Moe Riley: Billy Smith
Carl: Rob Campbell