My Brother the Devil

Directed By: Sally El Hosaini

Starring: James Floyd, Fady Elsayed, and Saïd Taghmaoui

I was just having a conversation yesterday about homosexuality in Islamic culture.  Though I wasn't particularly interested in the conversation at the time, another individual and I were discussing how being gay is more than just taboo to Muslims.  It's comparable to a mortal sin and can often have fatal consequences.  It's so fitting that I ended up seeing Sally El Hosaini's My Brother the Devil, a film in which a younger brother would rather call his big brother a terrorist than a homosexual.  That's some profound stuff there that definitely lends credence to the conversation I had earlier that day.

Mo (Fady Elsayed) has always looked up to his older brother Rashid (James Floyd) and has aspired to be like him.  Rashid, a drug dealer living a hard life on the streets of the city, doesn't quite see things that way.  He wants more for his brother Mo.  He wants him to go off to college, maybe even university, and escape the impoverished life they live.  To help Mo get there, Rashid is going to keep dealing drugs on the streets and saving up for his little brother’s college education.  This life is a vicious cycle, and Rashid knows this all too well.  Unbeknownst to him, his brother Mo soon finds himself immersed in the same vicious cycle.  Things get more complicated when Rashid tries to turn a leaf and become an honest man, especially when he takes a male lover.

As interesting and thought-provoking as My Brother the Devil is, I just can't get with this film.  It may deftly delve into such themes as life on the streets and homosexuality in Islamic culture, but it's a film with a very sad message.  Either you're a heterosexual degenerate living the hard life, or you're a homosexual honest man who's gone soft.  There's no middle ground in this film for honest, straight men who are doing the right thing, which is very unfortunate.  This is abundantly clear from the way in which director Sally El Hosaini forces the homosexual storyline upon us.  It comes randomly out of nowhere but becomes a central focus of the film.  As soon as Rashid turns a corner in his life, he finds his mentor Sayyid (Saïd Taghmaoui) lovingly awaiting him.  Because Sayyid bats his eyelashes at the reformed gangster, Rashid ditches his girlfriend and takes a boyfriend.

While I disagree with a good chunk of the thematic material in My Brother the Devil and the major plot twist forced by El Hosaini, I must acknowledge that Hosaini otherwise crafts a poignant, edgy depiction of life on the streets.  El Hosaini sets a dark tone and creates this gritty world that perfectly fits the story being told here.  I also must acknowledge that the actors turn in solid performances.  James Floyd and Fady Elsayed deliver transformative characters to the point that I'm not quite sure which brother is really the devil.  While the obvious choice is Floyd's Rashid, a case can easily be made for Elsayed's Mo.  Maybe it’s both of them.

All in all, I'm of a mixed mindset when it comes to My Brother the Devil.  I respect that it's a well-made film.  However, I adamantly disagree with some of the content in this flick and the random way by which El Hosaini forces it upon the audience.  With all this in mind, I have to give My Brother the Devil a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.