SXSW Film Review: Brothers’ Nest (Australia, 2018) is dark, twisted and completely unpredictable

If you thought the family in Animal Kingdom had problems, wait until you meet Australia’s newest dysfunctional family. In the new film from Director Clayton Jacobson, starring both himself and his brother Shane Jacobson, we spend some time getting to know the real life brothers as they play fictional brothers Jeff and Terry – reuniting the pair 11 years after their hit film Kenny.

But don’t let their outfits confuse you; a sequel to Kenny this is not.

Set in a house in Countryside Victoria, the film starts as the brothers arrive at their childhood home. It’s clear they’re about to commit a crime, but you’re not sure what it is. Without giving too much away, it involves a murder. Jeff has meticulously planned proceedings, while Terry has seemingly been brought along for the ride, playing the voice of reason, oft-confused or bewildered by the scenario.

The film is, at times, a hard film to watch due to its subject matter. It’s not going to be advertised as a thriller, but it’s not far off. There are moments where the dark comedy evolves into a frightening tale, one that shows families at their most dysfunctional and dangerous. Both Jacobson brothers deliver stunning performances; when Clayton Jacobson got up in front of the SXSW crowd after the screening I couldn’t help but still see him as the sadistic character he created. It was a bizarre feeling, and neither brother tried to make the characters anything but a hyper-exaggeration of themselves, all the way down to Clayton’s glasses, and the use of their real childhood photos in this beautiful countryside abode. Hopefully there’s no more truth to the story than meets the eye…

Though 90% of the film focuses on the pair preparing for the crime, there are a few characters who pop up along the way, including the magnificent Sarah Snook who helps set up the film’s final sequence (and plays her small role brilliantly), and the other family members who show up along the way. I don’t want to give too much away about who they meet, but all their performances are perfect – and surprising. Clayton, and screenwriter Jaime Browne, ensure that you’ll constantly be surprised by the characters you meet, and the direction they take.

It’s a film where you don’t know whether to laugh or to cry; most of the time it seems acceptable to do both. This is as dark a comedy as you could find. Let’s call it “pitch black”, and they definitely pay homage to some of the classics of the genre, like The Coen Brothers’ Fargo. There’s the “let’s just see how wrong a crime can go” approach, and a brilliant musical score from Richard Pleasance, which is often reminiscent of the Coen’s classic. Strong cinematography and a tight, well paced edit (which was done in part by Clayton himself) help tie the film up into a quality package.

And a quality package it is. Brothers’ Nest is a wonderful if evil film, packed with strong performances from the Jacobson brothers. Just be prepared to never see the beloved Kenny in the same light again.


Brothers’ Nest is currently screening as part of SXSW in Austin, Texas, where it held its world premiere last night.

Presented by Screen Australia, Jason Byrne Productions and Bison Films in association with Film Victoria and Label Distribution, it is scheduled for theatrical release in Australia in May 2018. USA release dates are to follow.