BRIGHTBURN (2019)

  • Release Date: 24/05/2019
  • Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn
  • Director: David Yarovesky

Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) is raised on a farm of Brightburn by Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman). Tori and Kyle haven’t had a kid for long and are thrilled when they are blessed with Brandon. Tori is especially elated to have him and treats him like an infant even after he is 12 years old. However, Brandon is not what he seems to be and has an extraterrestrial lineage. Once he attains puberty, his powers and his true inclinations start taking over him and he turns into something horrifying and destructive. His mother, who for so long has been enamored by him still refuses to see what his son has become and this leads to further loss of life. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.

I loved Brightburn for a number of reasons. This is a gripping and engrossing thriller that constantly makes you think whether a certain character would do a certain thing or not and almost invariably surprises you with what that particular character does and how he/she does it. Atleast that was the case with me. Brandon Breyer turns evil after only a fraction of the film has unfolded and remains that way till the very end. I felt such hatred for this kid that if left up to me, I would tear my way into the screen and pummel his face. Every character he torments is good and he had no valid reason to torture them apart from the fact that he just wanted to. We also know what his powers are and the knowledge of it makes his attacks on his hapless victims even more heartbreaking for us. This was a masterstroke on the part of the director who knew how to manipulate our emotions in favor of the victims.

The hatred we feel for Brandon has a lot to do with the manner in which Jackson A. Dunn essays the character. There is an out-worldly feel to his act and the manner in which he portrays the character. There is a sequence in which his mother finds out some softcore material under his bed and has a discussion with his dad regarding the same. As she browses through the images they get progressively bizarre documenting the crooked sense of interest of Brandon. The manner in which Brandon harms people at the slightest instigation is unbelievable. Jackson A. Dunn brings certain nudges to the character that gives the viewers visual cues to what he is about to do next. These cues are not subtle but they do work very well.

Elizabeth Banks plays out the majority of the film in denial of what is evident. She knew of the kid’s origins and even though she was not pretty sure what that meant, the absence of a child in her life and the arrival of Brandon made her forget everything and embrace the kid as her own. This is something that has a bearing on the whole film. She is the only one who can atleast momentarily calm Brandon and it is in her company that he shows what could be called a semblance of humanity. She is not ready to give up on her child and is even not ready to accept that he is a vicious monster. Banks beautifully brings out the nuances of the turmoil that is going on inside Tori. This makes for a gripping drama.

Brandon’s father Kyle played by David Denman is the only person who is able to see the monster that Brandon had become. He loves his son but he is absolutely aware of the mistake that they had made by bringing him in. There are scenes when the parents face the kid about certain things and the kid lies to their face. Kyle understands that and mouths his frustration. I just loved the tension that David Denham is able to bring to the table. As the film unfolds, he gets more and more tensed and rattled and that shows in his act. The drama that unfolds between him and his wife is heartening to look at. They share perfect chemistry. There are also scenes between him and his son throughout the film which shows the propagation of their relationship.

Brightburn is a minimalistic film. There isn’t a lot of action or superhero violence but whatever is there is there for a reason and is well done. There is a scene where a woman is attacked by Brandon and that is one of the most horrifying scenes of the film. Towards the end, Brandon conjures an accident to get rid of a character that I believe was wonderfully executed. There are some flying scenes too which are done aesthetically and they come and go so fast that it is not easy to pick them apart for follies. The emphasis of the film is on the interpersonal dynamics between the characters and what impact the changing facets of Brandon has on the family and the world as a whole. The film extracts its thrills and drama from this theme and the director doesn’t lose sight of it. This is what makes this film even stouter. The fact that it is only 90 minutes long helps the cause even more. There are numerous subtle references to Superman in the film and they brought some heartwarming nostalgia to it.

My biggest complaint with the film is a personal one. I was crestfallen at the manner in which this film ended. My reactions were similar to what I had watching two other exemplary horror film, The Omen (1976) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968). I was so frustrated that I sat through the end credits hoping for some miracle to happen by virtue of which the ending could be undone. However, when I thought about the film later, I realized that the manner in which it ended was the only way it could have ended. Having said that, I still would have loved to see some retribution. Another issue with the film was the lack of tangible information about Brandon’s motivation to be evil. He just wakes up one day and starts killing people. It would have really helped the film had his backstory been made clearer.

Overall, Brightburn is a well-made, tense and edge of the seat thriller that can be enjoyed multiple times. It has great performances, wonderful visuals and some gut-wrenching action which is bound to catch you off-guard. It is not for the faint-hearted and is certainly not for kids. For all those who enjoy material of this kind, it is a must watch. I somehow feel that James Gunn (Producer) and his team might be developing an anti-hero universe of their own and Brightburn might just be the first in the line of many. Atleast that’s what I felt because of the last visuals of the film.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)    

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