Directed by Pierce Csurgo, Oh, Brother explores young male mental health and toxic masculinity, and how the two intertwine through characters Alexander and Marcus, the former of which is a timid and shy foil to the latter’s ‘dude bro’ jock, whose demeanour screams alpha-male bravado. Marcus peer pressures his friend, Alexander, who is currently reeling from recent, tough life events. Csurgo employs actors Gabriel Meacher (Alexander) and Francesco Filce (Marcus) to demonstrate the dichotomy of two male extremes in regards to the struggles of male mental health, whether or not it should be exposed, or risk appearing ‘weak’ or somehow less manly, keeping up a toxic façade against the pressure of male peers and the society that encourages such unhealthy bottling of emotional strife.
The film opens with the line, “Don’t be a pussy”, spoken by Marcus as he forcefully coerces Alexander to join him in a rave in order to score “chicks” and get high. A deflated Alexander is clearly averse to such an endeavour, the recipient in equal measure of berating and encouragement to induce himself with MDMA. Eventually giving in to his tank-top rocking roommate, the two embark on their night out, only for Alexander to quickly experience an emotional episode, causing the two to recuperate at a nearby park, much to the chagrin of party-lust, Marcus.
Here we very quickly learn of each character’s inner turmoil and the turbulence between them, with Marcus accusing Alexander of being gay, and Alexander confirming the recent death of his father. Marcus apologetically clarifies he was unaware this particular detail. It could be argued that this sudden onset of exposition may appear abrupt and unnatural, although if considering that the film has already established that the two are somewhat intoxicated and are close friends, these personal announcements might actually make sense, excusing the lack of build-up.
The actors’ chemistry and purposeful lack thereof works extremely well to depict the opposite sides of tackling mental health. The night time playground as the film’s mise-en-scene effectively grounds and realises such emotional male confrontations and outbursts that are not unlike real-life scenarios we are all too familiar with.
Oh, Brother depicts the issue of men and their tumultuous relationship with their own mental health, especially beneath the toxic façade of socially prescribed to notions of masculinity, generating intelligent discussion about the unhealthy habits of avoiding emotional expression. Regardless of how we discover the characters’ hang-ups, this film accurately and interestingly depicts the realistic tackling of a sensitive topic that is somewhat alien to young men.