The Brothers McMullen (1995)

  • Year: 1995
  • Released: 11 Aug 1995
  • Country: United States
  • Adwords: 4 wins & 1 nomination
  • IMDb:
  • Rotten Tomatoes:
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: R
  • Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • Runtime: 98 min
  • Writer: Edward Burns
  • Director: Edward Burns
  • Cast: Jack Mulcahy, Michael McGlone, Edward Burns
  • Keywords: love, best friend, true love, irish catholic,

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The Brothers McMullen Movie Reviews

A Deent Story of Faith and Love

Three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.

This film definitely has the feel of a 1990s independent movie. That is meant as a compliment. Edward Burns may not have received as much attention as Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino, but he still made an impact with this film and won at Sundance. Like the other two, he drove the film home with dialogue — always the way to go on a limited budget.

The story itself is not that interesting, but the interactions between the brothers is. They have different views on their Catholic faith, which affects how they handle their relationships. And, as is often the case, love and passion tend to have a stronger pull than religion when put to the test.

Feels like a pilot for a sit-com

I never saw “The Brothers McMullen” in the theater, but I just watched it on video. I have to say that I liked it in spite of its flaws. It just had this superficial, breezy feel to it, like it’s really not a movie but a pilot for a sit-com. All it’s missing is the laugh-track.

The stories about the three brothers were well done, especially Barry’s story (the middle brother). But I kept thinking the most interesting character in this story is the dead father, and he’s not even in the movie. The brothers mention their father several times, usually in some disparaging way. You don’t find out many facts about him, except that their mother never loved him. Apparently the sons didn’t love him either.

The three brothers are desperate, each in their own way, to not end up like their father. The dead Mr. McMullen was characterized as an alcoholic, wife-abusing, stern and unhappy man. And yet Mr. McMullen had no trouble committing to one woman, which apparently Barry can’t manage to do. Mr. McMullen remained faithful (apparently) in a 35 year marriage and raised 3 sons, which oldest son Jack can’t bring himself to do. Mr. McMullen remained true to his religious and cultural upbringing, which youngest son Patrick is about to turn his back on when he splits for California.

So maybe that father wasn’t such a failure after all. The sons won’t realize this until they become husbands and fathers themselves. But they haven’t reached that point yet, they’re still growing up and figuring things out. It’s nice to see how they help each other and take turns giving “parental” advice to each other.

I’d like to see this same story with these same characters, told 20 years before, and 20 years after the time of this movie. I’d like to meet the mother in Ireland as she greets her American grandchildren. Now that would be an interesting sequel.

Irish brothers have to confront their Catholic consciences…

EDWARD BURNS is the writer/producer/director/actor of this charming piece of casual film-making on a shoestring budget that he turned out twelve years ago, obviously based on characters he cares about and knows intimately. It has the intimate immediacy of MARTY, another such tale about a lonely Brooklyn butcher looking for true love and the right marriage prospect to end his bachelor days.

In THE BROTHERS McMULLEN we have MARTY compounded by three–namely, the Irish brothers on Long Island who seem to indulge in endless dialog about life, love and the pursuit of happiness while sipping their favorite beers, each involved in a troublesome relationship that has them questioning their inner conflicts born by a Catholic conscience.

It’s not exactly up to the Woody Allen standard of such tales, but the dialog is fresh enough and natural, the modest settings are appropriate for the story and the jaunty Irish music on the soundtrack does its job.

Nothing complex here. Just a warm, engaging, occasionally funny tale of average guys struggling with their fixed ideas of moral values, each unable to come to terms with inner conflicts–and two of them simply unable to make commitments to the women they love.

The film is really carried by the three brothers: EDWARD BURNS as the one least able to commit, and JACK MULCAHY and MIKE McGLONE as his troubled siblings.

Summing up: Nothing really special, but it did win a couple of awards at film festivals.