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Writer and director Richard Bell succeeds in stripping back the mythos of what it means ‘to be a man’ and how strong one can really be while embracing compassion, vulnerability and love instead.

Level Films

Brotherhood

Written and directed by Richard Bell

Starring Brendan Fletcher and Brendan Fehr

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Classification N/A; 96 minutes

rating

Most of us are unfamiliar with the tragedy that befell the Brotherhood of St. Andrew in 1926. At Long Point Camp on Balsam Lake in Ontario’s Kawartha region, a band of teen boys led by First World War veterans Arthur Lambden (Brendan Fletcher) and Robert Butcher (Brendan Fehr) embarked on a canoe trip that went awry when their boat capsized in a freak storm. Seven of the boys eventually died.

New in theatres this week: Canadian triumph Antigone, the powerful She Never Died and the terrible Kindness of Strangers

Writer and director Richard Bell’s scenes depicting the deaths of each character are as upsetting as the increasing hopelessness the group faces as their numbers dwindle. But even more heartbreaking are the flashbacks of what came before, the camaraderie between the boys, the way friendship began to help heal their existing emotional traumas, and the way the retreat was supposed to be a reprieve from the pain to which they’d become accustomed.

But while the film is aptly named Brotherhood (and doesn’t hugely step out of the film’s historical context – or out of Bell’s appreciation of the bonds forged by camping, tragedy or war), Bell succeeds in stripping back the mythos of what it means “to be a man” and how strong one can really be while embracing compassion, vulnerability and love instead.

Brotherhood opens Dec. 6 in Toronto

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