My Brother Is an Only Child

Rated 4.0

In this swift-moving tale of political and sibling rivalry in late-’60s provincial Italy, a hotheaded seminary school dropout Accio (Vittorio Emanuele Propizio as a pre-teen, Elio Germano thereafter) becomes a fascist mostly to rankle his older brother Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio), the dreamboat communist lothario whom Mom (Angela Finocchiaro) always liked better. Adapting Antonio Pennacchi’s novel Il Fasciocomunista, director Daniele Luchetti co-scripted with Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, the writing team responsible for 2003’s similarly plotted six-hour epic The Best of Youth. Fans of Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution or 1900 might be left wanting a stiffer cocktail here; Luchetti’s own political stance seems gregariously skeptical, and his lively, light touch makes us feel safe in what could be (and indeed becomes) troublesome territory. The deadpan “de-fascistization” of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” with God swapped out for Mao, Marx, Lenin and Stalin, makes up for a forced ending, and the rest is a merry swirl of vital, passionate performances.