Irish director explores toll of battlefield in 'Brothers'

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The Independent Culture

Despite a career which has included a string of critical hits such as "My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father," Jim Sheridan admits he was daunted by his latest film.

The 60-year-old Irish director returns to cinemas this week with the North American release of "Brothers," a drama about the turmoil of an Afghanistan veteran, played by Tobey Maguire, struggling to adjust to civilian life.

Sheridan admits to being wary about taking on the film, a remake of the acclaimed 2004 Danish movie of the same name directed by Susanne Bier.

"In this case, when I read all the astounding reviews that the original film got I started thinking 'Oh my god, why did I agree to do this?'" Sheridan said.

"You feel you're on a hiding to nothing. So you do your best and you try not to do any damage to the original," he told AFP.

Early indications are that Sheridan's adaptation is a success.

"Brothers" is already attracting early buzz as a possible Oscars contender, and comes less than a month after the Fort Hood massacre thrust the issue of mental health in the US military into the spotlight.

The film revolves around the strain placed on a blue-collar family after Maguire's character returns home after surviving a horrific ordeal as a prisoner of militants in Afghanistan.

With strong supporting performances from Oscar nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, Sheridan's movie delves deep into the mental scars of war in a way that is reminiscent of Michael Cimino's 1978 classic "The Deer Hunter."

"It's the difficulty of the warrior coming back to a civilian situation, and how he has to adjust," Sheridan says.

"In this case it's almost more interesting because it becomes a story about America rather than Afghanistan or Iraq.

"When I saw the original Danish film I became very interested in the story of someone who goes beyond good and evil.

"In a sense it's not strictly a war movie. It's about a situation where a person has to decide on a choice between heroic suicide or to live. And that could be a situation that arises anywhere."

While actors in Sheridan's previous films have won Oscars - notably Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker in 1989's "My Left Foot" - the director himself is still awaiting his first statuette despite six previous nominations.

Sheridan says he will not get caught up in the awards show hoopla this year, busying himself instead with "Dream House," a thriller starring Daniel Craig.

However he admits that awards shows such as the Oscars and Golden Globes play a vital role in keeping the European and independent movie sectors afloat.

"The great thing about the awards is that they can help - and this is especially true of European movies - to live and survive," Sheridan said.

"Unfortunately there are very few marketing tools left other than the awards shows. But you don't set out to win awards when you make a movie; you'd just go nuts if you did that."

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