SXSW Film Review: 'The Mend'

Two dysfunctional brothers spiral downward

No matter how hard it is, sometimes you've got to turn your back on a family member.

Unfortunately the dysfunctional characters in The Mend never quite muster that strength. When Alan's girlfriend breaks up with him in the middle of a romantic vacation, he returns to find his deadbeat brother Mat using his apartment as a flophouse. Rather than kick Mat out, Alan tolerates the abuse, then casts off his responsible image to join in a binge around Harlem that includes fist fights, stolen film set walkie talkies, and plenty of innocuous banter.

There are countless moments in the film when the viewer expects Alan to turn on his brother, but it just never happens. The lack of consequences for Mat's deviance snowballs into a frustrating mess made more excruciating by a pulsing string quartet score and the trite cocktail party observations of the supporting cast.

There are some bright spots of humor from Josh Lucas as Mat, a Jason Segel lookalike whose personality is hidden so deep in a black leather jacket that even the driest jokes pull a laugh. And Mat's inexplicably loyal girlfriend played by Lucy Owen lights up the screen, until her purpose becomes so ambiguous that it's unclear whether she's trying to seduce Alan or help him get his ex back.

By the end of the film, the characters' arcs are so muddied that there can really only be one explanation: They must be family.

The Mend

Narrative Competition, World Premiere
Thursday, March 13, 11am, VCC

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