Agnes And His Brothers

German writer-director Oskar Roehler's overwrought melodrama follows the misfortunes of the Tschimer brothers of Cologne, who have different mothers but share a single wealthy, hard-drinking, monumentally self-involved father, Gunther (Vadim Glowna). Eldest brother Werner (Herbert Knaup), a high-profile Green Party politician, is the most outwardly successful,...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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German writer-director Oskar Roehler's overwrought melodrama follows the misfortunes of the Tschimer brothers of Cologne, who have different mothers but share a single wealthy, hard-drinking, monumentally self-involved father, Gunther (Vadim Glowna). Eldest brother Werner (Herbert Knaup), a high-profile Green Party politician, is the most outwardly successful, but his home life is a miserable quagmire. His wife, Signe (Katja Riemann), drinks and has banished him to the living-room couch; her relationship with their 18-year-old son, sneaky, shiftless aspiring filmmaker Ralf (Tom Schilling), borders on the incestuous; and only the dog seems happy when Werner comes home. In addition to his domestic troubles, Werner is at a pivotal point in his career: If he can successfully shepherd passage of a container-tax bill, he stands a chance of becoming minister of the environment. Middle brother Hans-Jorg (Moritz Bleibtreu), a librarian whose seething anger is never far from the surface, is a sex addict who blames Gunther for his mother's suicide and insists he molested their youngest brother, Franz, as a child. Hans-Jorg's recklessly self-destructive behaviors include boring a peephole in the library's ladies' room, neglecting his duties in order to hit on women and befriending the sleazy adult filmmaker (Martin Semmelrogge), who trolls sex-therapy groups for potential porn performers. Franz never knew his mother — Gunther swore she was a notorious Bader-Meinhoff terrorist, though there's no evidence to support the claim — and grew up to marry and father a child before sexual- reassignment surgery transformed him into the gentle, optimistic Agnes (Martin Weiss). HIV-positive and emotionally fragile, Agnes lives with her abusive boyfriend (Oliver Korittke) in a rundown housing project, until he capriciously throws her out. Agnes is taken in by sympathetic barfly Roxy (Margit Carstensen), whose steady support helps her cope with the discovery that American fashionista Henry Preminger (Lee Daniels), the unrequited love of Agnes' life, is coming to town for a high-profile media event. Despite occasional detours into pitch-black comedy that prompted comparisons to AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999), this is fundamentally a schematic that puts structure and conceit ahead of narrative and characterization. Roehler intended the brothers to represent "three aspects of German reality" and their stories to embody different genres: Werner's tale is satirical, Hans-Jorg's is a gritty psychological study, and Agnes' is overwrought melodrama. That's very clever, but the results isn't especially engaging, despite a quietly charismatic performance by Weiss, a relative newcomer who holds his own against far more experienced actors.

MIXED-ISH - In "mixed-ish," Rainbow Johnson recounts her experience growing up in a mixed-race family in the '80s and the constant dilemmas they had to face over whether to assimilate or stay true to themselves. Bow's parents Paul and Alicia decide to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family. As her parents struggle with the challenges of their new life, Bow and her siblings navigate a mainstream school in which they're perceived as neither black nor white. This family's experiences illuminate the challenges of finding one's own identity when the rest of the world can't decide where you belong. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)
MYKAL-MICHELLE HARRIS, ARICA HIMMEL, ETHAN WILLIAM CHILDRESS

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