With her Welsh-Egyptian heritage, writer-director Sally El Hosaini is clearly a woman who resists easy definition. So does her accomplished first feature.
Ostensibly, My Brother the Devil is just another boyz-’n-the-hood genre flick, but, filtered through Hosaini’s unique perspective, it looks and feels and even sounds different – not softer exactly, but more sensitive.
Sorry, but the title is ironic. Elder brother Rashid is ganged-up yet hardly Satanic – just an amiable drug-runner with a chiselled handsomeness and a wish to keep his sibling Mo on the straight and narrow.
Both boys are Hackney-born to Egyptian parents and are staunch secularists who speak in the thick argot of the street. That’s the first of Hosaini’s distinctive contributions: Her ear for dialogue is spot-on. Her eye for detail is just as sharp.
There are patches of green here, and oases of quiet, even civility. That’s not to deny the violence, but it, too, flares with a difference.
It’s an impressive debut by a director blessed with a strong voice and a knack for bringing a specific cultural milieu to vibrant life, defying convention even while working within its strict limits.