My Brother Is an Only Child (DVD)

Through the 1960s and 1970s, a pair of brothers (Elio Germano and Riccardo Scamarcio) battle over love and ideas in this Italian drama. The movie also stars Angela Finocchiaro and Luca Zingaretti.

Accio (Elio Germano) and Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) are working class brothers who live in Italy in the 1960s. While his brother becomes drawn into left-wing politics, Accio, the hotheaded younger brother, is taken under the wing of a market trader and while under his influence, joins the Fascist party. Accio (“Bully”) is a nickname he is proud of because it makes him seem tough. Manrico and their sister Violetta are alarmed to hear their brother listening to Benito Mussolini’s speeches in his room. Manrico often physically torments his brother, including stuffing his head in the barrel under the drain pipe of their house.

Accio once runs away from home because his mother voted for the Houses Party. Their house is falling apart and she thinks the Houses Party will help them rebuild it.

As Accio and Manrico get older they start demonstrating as members of the Fascist party and the Communist movement respectively. (There are scenes of a factory occupation, and the occupation of the Rome conservatoire, where the sister is studying the cello.) The film is relatively even handed in its treatment of politics. If the young fascists seem absurd with their chanting of ‘Duce! Duce!’, and their actions constantly tending to violence, the communists are hardly less so: Schiller’s words in the final movement of Beethoven’s choral symphony are replaced by a hymn in praise of Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin; a meeting of activists consists of a room full of bearded men all shouting at once and only agreeing when the time comes to shout a slogan.

Francesca, Manrico’s girlfriend, becomes Accio’s friend. Accio secretly likes her and thinks that she should not stay with Manrico because “he can’t be depended on”. The viewer is in little doubt that Accio is also attracted to Francesca himself. At the same time, he has himself become sexually involved with the wife of his fascist friend, the market trader, who has been imprisoned for his violent political activities. She buys him a car through an installment plan.

Eventually Accio ends up leaving the Fascist party and tearing up his membership card when party members burn his brother’s car. He also breaks up with his older lover, telling her that he cares for someone else, but not replying when asked if he is loved in return.

But while Accio largely pulls out of political activism, his brother is drawn deeper into revolutionary violence. After disappearing for two years, he calls home. Accio travels to meet him and telephones Francesca, who twice quickly hangs up on him. When they meet in a cafe, Manrico sees Francesca arriving unexpectedly, but also the police who have perhaps been tailing her or tapping her telephone. He flees but dies in an exchange of (handgun) fire with the pursuing police.

Accio then breaks into the corrupt and inefficient housing office to seize the waiting keys and the records of the homeless. He distributes keys and a party of homeless families take possession in the middle of the same night. The film ends with Accio living with his family, including his brother’s small son.

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