‘My Blind Brother’: SXSW Review

Nick Kroll tries to steal Jenny Slate away from his blind brother (played by Adam Scott) in this comedy.

Having a hero for a brother is no fun, especially when you’re his right-hand dude but he gives all the credit to “the man upstairs.” Nick Kroll tolerates Adam Scott’s neglect in My Blind Brother, Sophie Goodhart’s expansion of a short film that played SXSW way back in 2003. Enjoyable, if not a laugh riot, the pic pits the brothers against each other in pursuit of Jenny Slate; those three names alone should be enough to ensure this feature debut gets attention beyond the fest circuit.

Scott’s Robbie enters the film chugging toward the finish line of a one-man marathon, apparently set up solely to prove a blind man can run 26 miles just like any sighted masochist. Thing is, Bill (Kroll) had to run the whole thing as well, leashed with a Velcro strap to his brother to keep him from running into trees. But his feat is ignored while Robbie does smarmy press interviews and collects a novelty-sized check for his charitable foundation.

The Bottom Line

A low-key but funny love triangle.

Escaping this indignity in a nearby bar, Bill stumbles into a wake for a guy who died right after being dumped by Rose (Slate), who hides guiltily in the crowd. She feels like a horrible person who needs to commit her life to charity, so even though the two hit it off and wind up sleeping together, Rose flees the next morning without leaving her number — only to show up a day later, having volunteered to serve as a guide for a blind man she had no idea was Bill’s brother.

When handling awkward reunions such as this one, it’s helpful if the third person in the room can’t see your body language. Rose and Bill muddle through (earning a few laughs along the way), but Rose’s guilty weirdness persists, and soon she finds herself stumbling backwards into a relationship with Robbie. Scott, so often the nice guy, makes Robbie almost intolerably self-absorbed. And how shallow must a man be to need to verify that the love interest he’ll never see is attractive? Bill screws with his brother a bit on that front, lazily trying to sabotage the relationship while Rose helps Robbie train for a long-distance swim.

This might have been funnier had the film done more to sell the misguided admiration outsiders have for Robbie. With his phoniness so easy to spot, there’s not much of a hurdle between Bill and a reunion with Rose — and only limited room for her to remain on the fence before we decide she isn’t worth pursuing. The picture moves agreeably toward its inevitable end, a softball resolution that even a blind man will see coming.

Venue: South by Southwest Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight)
Distributor: Starz
Production companies: Safehouse Pictures, Low Spark Films
Cast: Adam Scott, Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, Zoe Kazan, Charlie Hewson
Director-screenwriter: Sophie Goodhart
Producers: Tyler Davidson, Tory Tunnell
Executive producers: Kevin Flanigan, Joby Harold, Joseph E. LoConti
Director of photography: Eric Lin
Production designer: Lisa Myers
Costume designer: Keri Langerman
Editor: Jennifer Lee
Composer: Ian Hultquist
Casting director: Angela Boehm
Sales: Deb McIntosh, WME

Not rated, 84 minutes