Following their mother’s death, three sons are summoned back to the small country village they left behind many years earlier. Each of the sons is battling his own demons – the eldest, Raffaele (Philippe Noiret), is a Judge living in Rome. He is currently investigating a terrorism case and has received death threats. The second son, Nicola (Michele Placido), is a factory worker with a young daughter whose marriage has recently collapsed. He is also involved in an industrial dispute that is threatening to become violent. The third son is Rocco (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), a frustrated idealist who works as a counsellor at a correctional institute for young boys.
Returning to their parent’s farmhouse forces the three men to confront their past, as well as their futures. In very different ways, they have each become disconnected from the simpler people they used to be – Raffaele dreams about (or maybe has a premonition of) his own assassination, and Nicola imagines reconciling with his estranged wife. In the most striking sequence, Rocco fantasies about rescuing the children of Naples from violence and corruption. This is one moment of jarring surrealism in a story which is, at its heart, a gently paced, gorgeously photographed meditation on life, love and loss.
Meanwhile, the son’s elderly father (Charles Vanel) is quietly coming to terms with his wife’s death, recalling the memories of when they were first married, and – together with his young granddaughter Marta (Marta Zoffoli) – he finally allows himself to grieve.
In many ways, Francesco Rosi’s Three Brothers is an anti-film. Nothing much seems to happen and yet, at the same time, everything happens. There is no real story and no real resolution, except maybe for the father’s character, in a final freeze-frame that is as heart-warming as it is heartbreaking, whereas for his three sons the future remains unknown. But there isn’t a single frame of Three Brothers that isn’t scintillating, and intellectually, as well as visually, rewarding. Rosi’s deceptively sparse screenplay (co-written with Tonino Guerra) has a lot to say about the nature of violence, our loss of innocence, the complexity of love, and how – once we leave home – we are forever changed, and can never really come back again.
It is a beautiful cinematic experience, a genuine work of art, and this new Blu-ray presentation (which also includes an archival interview with Rosi) is stunning. Movies like Three Brothers should be cherished and celebrated. Don’t miss the opportunity to see it, looking and sounding better than ever before.
THREE BROTHERS (1981) / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: FRANCESCO ROSI / SCREENPLAY: FRANCESCO ROSI, TONINO GUERRA / STARRING: PHILIPPE NOIRET, MICHELE PLACIDO, MEZZOGIORNO, CHARLES VANEL, MARTA ZOFFOLI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW