The baseless nihilism of so many Hollywood Oscar films gets shown up by Brothers
. To the embarrassment of some, director Jim Sheridan wears his heart on his sleeve, but his melodrama is attentive to emotional truth---attaining real intensity and recognition. Out of his depth with the 50 Cent showcase Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
, Sheridan returns to the domesticity and family strife he understands. With this remake of the 2004 Susanne Bier film, he works a unique balance of overt dramatics and naturalism. It's the story of Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) temporarily leaving his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and young children to fight in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, his troubled brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) returns from prison to deal with his family reputation as the one who turned out wrong. Things escalate. Whatever conveniences are in the story don't really matter: *Brothers* is rooted in character interplay, which Sheridan observes empathetically and from the ground level. Maguire, Gyllenhaal and Portman all deliver their best work, investing the film with surprising power, and making Sam, Tommy and Grace into near-literary classic figures. –Mark Palermo