Brother to Brother
By Alistair Lawrence,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Bold, positive LGBTQ+ drama has sex, homophobia, language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Overcoming racial and homophobic discrimination in order to live your life. Finding common ground with people from different backgrounds and generations. Celebrating important historical figures. Following your heart and chasing your dreams. Frequent discussions about Black history, religion, the importance of family, and caring for one another. Racism and homophobia are criticized.
Positive Role Models
Perry experiences homophobia -- both from strangers and his own family. But he doesn't let any of this stop him from living his life. He, Marcus, and Bruce are all creative and follow their passions. Strong racial and LGBTQ+ diversity, but no female characters among main cast.
Violence & Scariness
References to characters being involved in physical confrontations in the past. A photo shoot features a knife and non-graphic violent imagery. A character is jumped and beaten by a gang of people, resulting in bloody injury.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing, references to sexual acts, innuendo. Caressing and touching over and under clothing. Characters watch pornography. Characters are seen kissing while shirtless. Two characters lie shirtless in bed together after sex. Characters are shown wearing only towels in a bathhouse. Characters have sex under bed covers. One then chases an interloper while naked -- nudity shown from rear. Character alternates between kissing two people on either side of them.
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Language includes "f--king," "d--k," "ass," "s--t," "motherf----r," "bulls--t," and "f--k." The "N" word is used. Homophobic slur "f--got."
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Products & Purchases
Discussions about whether artists and authors need to make writing and painting more commercial in order to succeed.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes socially. Two characters are shown to be slightly drunk. A female character smokes in public, rejecting the social convention of the 1920s time period.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Brother to Brother is a drama about Perry (Anthony Mackie), a young Black man living in New York who is learning about his identity as a gay man. The overall message is positive despite the bigoted attitudes that the main characters often face. Perry makes no attempt to hide his sexuality and often confronts those expressing homophobic attitudes. He also holds strong views about race and politics. A series of flashback scenes involving an older man called Bruce (Roger Robinson and Duane Buotte) serve as a platform for many real-life, important historical figures to discuss their own lives and work. There are frequent discussions about homophobia and racism throughout history, up to and including the present day. Sex is also discussed in depth, both in Perry's life in present-day New York and in the flashbacks to Bruce's youth. Couples are shown in bed together and in one case having sex. Characters are seen shirtless, only wearing towels, and nude from behind after sex. Violence rarely features, but there is one scene where a character is jumped, beaten, and verbally assaulted for being gay. Blood trickles from his mouth after the attack, but he isn't seriously injured. Strong language, usually expressed in anger or frustration, includes "s--t," "d--k," and variants of "f--k." The "N" word is also used, as is the homophobic slur "f--got." There is some drinking and smoking, with two characters shown to be slightly drunk and unsteady on their feet.
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Brother to Brother
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What's the Story?
In BROTHER TO BROTHER, when Perry (Anthony Mackie), a gay teenager, is thrown out of his home by his parents due to his sexuality, he finds himself in a homeless shelter in New York. There he meets Bruce (Roger Robinson), an elderly man who lived through the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. The two form a bond of friendship as they exchange experiences about being both Black and gay in the city.
Is It Any Good?
Despite its modest budget, this honorable drama that fearlessly portrays the lives of gay African American men through two different eras has become something of a cult favorite. An early leading role for Mackie centers Brother to Brother around central character Perry's internal and external conflicts, as he tries to come to terms with how he thinks and feels about the world's injustices and to learn more about them.
Not all of the cast can match Mackie's ability to turn what at times can feel like a lecture into something compelling. But the movie's attempt to educate its audience more about the Harlem Renaissance is admirable. Likewise, its unflinching examination of the homophobia that exists within Black communities allows Mackie to deliver some of its most effective moments. Unfortunately, the rest of the story struggles to sustain itself at times, while the ending is both sudden and predictable. That said, writer-director Rodney Evans rightly received praise for the intent and ambition of this, his debut feature.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the messages around sexual identity in Brother to Brother. How did Perry and Bruce's experiences compare to each other? What were the differences and similarities? Do you think people's attitudes toward being gay have changed over time? Why is it important to see movies with queer characters in them?
How was sex portrayed in the movie? Was it affectionate? Respectful? Did the relationship between Perry and Jim play out as you expected? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Discuss the strong language used. Did it seem necessary, or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie? How did some of the language make you feel when you heard it?
How did the homophobia that Perry experienced inform his attitude toward history and race? What can be done to counter homophobic attitudes in society?
Discuss the Harlem Renaissance. How much did you know about this period of American history? Did the movie make you interested in finding out more?
- In theaters: November 5, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: June 14, 2005
- Cast: Anthony Mackie, Roger Robinson, Duane Boutte
- Director: Rodney Evans
- Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors
- Studio: Wolfe Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Character Strengths: Curiosity, Empathy, Integrity
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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