THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN, 1995
Three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.
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Edward Burns wrote, directed, and stars in this charming, yet critically acclaimed, character study of three Irish Catholic brothers and their experiences with love, family, and life.
Edward Burns plays the role of Barry McMullen, an aspiring screenwriter who is adamantly against any type of committed relationship, and truly believes true love is simply a myth. On the opposite end of things is Barry's brother, Patrick (Mike McGlone), who believes true love not only exists, but is the core of all that exists. Then there's Jack, (Jack Mulcahy) who is married to Molly (Connie Britton). Jack is very pragmatic, matter of fact, type person. Jack basically thinks love is a frustrating aspect of life, and finds himself highly confused. On one hand, Jack loves his wife; on the other hand, she is pressuring him to begin a family. However, Jack is not real sure if he is really committed to the marriage, much less a family. While all three brothers have very different ideas about love, they have a very strong and lasting bond with their mother and each other.
Shortly into the film, their father passes on, which we quickly learn, was more of a drunk and a degenerate than a father. None of them seem to upset about his passing, but it does trigger an event that alters their life. In a pivotal scene, Barry is talking with his mother, Mrs. McMullen (Catharine Bolz), at his father's grave site. Mrs. McMullen tells Barry she is permanently moving back to their home country of Ireland to meet up with her true love after a period of 35 years. Barry is simply shocked on several levels. One, while Barry may try to act like a tough guy, he relies on his mother. She is his rock, his go to person, and Barry is upset she is leaving. Secondly, Barry was fully aware that his mother had only stayed married to his father due to their Irish Catholic faith and beliefs, but he cannot believe someone has waited for her for 35 years. Barry, remember, does not believe love actually exists, probably due to his parents' own marriage, much less last for 35 long years across two continents. And now that his mother is dead set on leaving, Barry knows now he only has his brothers to rely on. In some sense, it comforts Barry to know he has two people that he can count on having his back. However, he does not necessarily think the advice his two brothers can offer up about life is always the best advice.
As the film progresses, Barry begins finding success as a screenwriter and finds himself needing to move to the city to further his career. During his search for a place, he meets Audrey (Maxine Bahns) out of sheer coincidence. Barry is literally walking up the steps to what he thinks is the place he is about to rent, and Audrey walks out. Barry asks her about the place, and she tells him she just rented it. Barry cannot believe it, and it sparks a conversation between the two. Immediately, the two have a unique chemistry, and Barry finds himself intrigued by her.
On another front, Patrick has found himself at a crossroads with his current girlfriend, Susan (Shari Albert). She is ready to take their relationship to the next level. Patrick is finishing college, and Susan has gotten Patrick a job working for her father. Additionally, she wants her and Patrick to get a place together. Patrick is completely scared and uncertain. He is confused on whether or not he truly loves Susan. He also is torn between obeying his Irish Catholic faith, which strictly prohibits living together before marriage. Therefore, Patrick finds himself stuck. He is not ready to move in, much less marry, Susan, but she is not willing to wait for him to decide.
Then there is Jack. Jack's wife, Molly is ready to begin a family. She loves Jack with all of her heart and she wants a family with Jack more than anything in the world. Jack, however, is not sure of anything. He definitely is not ready for a family, for he sees it as a permanent bond to Molly. Although he loves Molly, Jack begins feeling the pressure and tight confines a marriage can bring. Thus he begins seeking an outlet, and finds himself tangled up in an affair with Ann (Elizabeth McKay). Jack, who is not devoted to his faith like Patrick, does not see the danger in the affair and the damage it is doing to Molly and his marriage. He is too self-absorbed to see anything beyond his own needs.
All three brothers have found themselves in their own predicaments, and now must rely on each other to solve their current situations. Jack turns to Patrick about the affair. Barry turns to Jack and Patrick about Audrey as he and Audrey begin growing close, and Patrick turns to Barry about his dwindling relationship with Susan. The trust and confidence they have in telling each other about their lives is remarkable. Although, each of them often finds themselves ignoring their brothers' advice, they still desire to hear it. These brothers are as close as brothers can get, and this is best illustrated in a hilarious scene setting where Patrick is sitting on the toilet, Jack bolts into the restroom and tells Patrick he has got to talk immediately. Patrick looks appalled, but he does not really have a choice but to listen. Jack tells Patrick that he is thinking about having an affair, although that is not the truth. He already has engaged in the affair. Patrick tells Jack he is crazy for even thinking it. For one, Patrick believes Jack is destined for hell for simply having that thought process. Secondly, Patrick does not understand how he could do that to Molly, and he makes Jack realize for the first time, how his decisions affect more than himself. Throughout this film, Burns continues bringing important information such as Jack telling Patrick about the affair, through simple scenes, which is, in my opinion, simply brilliant.
This film truly depicts brotherly love. We love our families, as the McMullens do. We love them even when they are unlovable. We love them even when they hurt us or when we disagree with them completely. As with all families, especially siblings, we as humans often find ourselves at odds with them, but we defend them to the world. The bond between Barry, Patrick, and Jack is unbreakable, and Edward Burns does a wonderful job of illustrating this bond through simple scenes and simple dialogue. He captures the essence of what it means being a brother, and he uses his characters in the most unique and captivating way. The Brothers McMullen is simple in so many ways. It is about three brothers. It is about family. It is about life. However, this film takes these simple premises and shows how complicated some of the simplest facets of life can be. We all are part of some kind of family, and thus, we can relate to the family issues these brothers face. We are all part of life, and we all know how difficult and challenging life can be at times. We also know how joyous life can be too. And all of us know love. We either have, want it, have lost it, or experienced all three at some point in our lives. We know how simple subjects become complicated, and how the most complicated situations can be solved through simple solutions. Edward Burns plays on these notions, and does a masterful job of capturing all these emotions within his film!