A review of Anthony J. Caruso’s LGBTQ film shot in Austin, TX, Brotherly Love.
(AUSTIN) – At nearly two hours, Anthony J. Caruso’s slow-paced film, Brotherly Love, feels a bit long; some of the characters might be seen as negative stereotypes; and yet there’s something oddly likable about this low budget indie, shot on location in Austin with a local cast.
Auteur Caruso stars as Brother Vito, a young gay man torn between his life with his gay friends and the vows of poverty and celibacy he’s about to take as a brother with the Catholic church. As the story opens, Vito, who lives in a monastery, still goes out cruising with his gay best friend Tim (Chance McKee). Vito desperately wants to jump into the car of the hot man who’s checking him out, but he stops himself, thinking of his upcoming vows. He goes to the White Party with Tim, where he feels out of place.
Vito doesn’t know what to do. He genuinely loves God and the church, but also loves his former life. He seeks counselling from Sister Peggy (June Griffin Garcia), a friendly, understanding nun, who thinks that Vito needs to get away for awhile so he can think things over. Vito is driven halfway across the country to spend the summer living and working in a halfway house for people with AIDS. There he meets Gabe (Derek Babb), a friendly, lonely landscaper who immediately takes a liking to Vito. The attraction is quite mutual, with Vito once again feeling torn between his love for the church and his natural desires. Will Vito remain true to his vows, or will he give in to Gabe’s not-to-subtle come-ons? The two are obviously falling in love, despite Vito’s pretending otherwise.
Vito and Gabe make for a hot, sweet couple. Actors Caruso and Babb have great onscreen chemistry, with Babb giving a particularly fine performance as a man who cannot live without love in his life. We learn that Gabe was once married.
“Now I have an ex-wife who hates me, a mother who cries whenever she talks to me and a father who fired me from the family business,” Gabe says sadly. Babb expertly conveys the emotions of the sweet, loving Gabe, who knows that he and Vito would be perfect for each other, if only Vito would open his eyes. Caruso is also quite good as he battles his mixed emotions.
Other aspects of the film don’t work quite as well. Chance McKee, as gay best friend Tim, appears to be a good actor, but his role is written as a stereotype. Tim is an over-the-top queen–he’s too over-the-top to be believable. He’s loud and brash, and talks endlessly about parties, clothes, and hot guys. We never learn who Tim is, all we’re told is that he likes to party a lot.
At one point Vito and Gabe meet a friendly lesbian couple, one of whom is an ex-nun who left the church to be with the woman she loves. That woman turns out to be a character who makes Tim seem tame in comparison. She’ll do anything for attention–after Sunday church services she smears chocolate cake on her face and laughs hysterically. It’s embarrassing to see a middle-aged woman carrying on like that. This character is a victim of bad writing–less would have been more.
Another flaw in the film is that the AIDS house where Vito is supposed to be working is presented as an afterthought. Vito shows up and meets the residents, who talk about Barbra Streisand a lot. With one exception, the house residents are not seen again until the end of the film. At no time during the film is Vito shown doing the work he was sent to the house to do–he spends the entire film with Gabe. How did the church elders and the house residents feel about that?
While far from a perfect film, Brotherly Love still entertains due to the terrific chemistry between Caruso and Babb. The burgeoning love story between these characters is sweet and romantic, and their scenes together are well written. They make Brotherly Love worth checking out. The fact that both men are nice to look at is an added plus.
Breaking Glass Picture’s DVD of Brotherly Love includes the film’s theatrical trailer and a lively commentary track from Caruso. You can purchase the film on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. Visit its official Facebook page and Breaking Glass’s Picture’s website.