The fate of the duo at the centre of Brothers’ Nest is inevitable from the start: the camera, with gloomy portent, looks up and idles toward their decrepit childhood home. Writer-director-actor Clayton Jacobson’s new, largely housebound crime comedy hinges on a dark homecoming: Jeff (Jacobson) has hauled his younger brother Terry (Clayton’s real-life sibling and collaborator Shane Jacobson) back to the country to murder their stepfather (Kym Gyngell) for house and inheritance. Their mother (Lynette Curran) is dying of cancer, and Jeff is convinced that Roger will ‘sell the lot out from under us and fuck off back to Queensland’.
Unlike Kenny (2006), Jacobson’s sweet, simple, character-driven début, the premise here is a classic one: ordinary people, in spells of ill judgement and moral weakness, out of their depth in a world of crime. The spin that Brothers’ Nest offers isn’t just its foggy Australian country setting, but the authenticity of two real-life brothers in a face-off of mutually assured destruction.
The film’s first rather slow act is consumed with Jeff’s pathetic, obsessive preparations. As audience members, we are well-versed in the genre’s contrivances: the machinations will be deliberated on and rehearsed, one would-be criminal will be reluctant, an unexpected visitor will arrive, a dire family secret will emerge, one character won’t be who they seem, a small mistake will mark the end of them all. In heavy exposition, we learn that staging their stepfather’s suicide is karmic vengeance to honour their father’s legacy. He ended his life following Roger’s affair with their mother decades ago. ‘Roger’s got our dad’s blood on his hands,’ says Jeff, as if repeating a line from a bad movie. And yet, Terry points out, Jeff is also guilty of abandoning one family and starting another.