Brother’s Keeper

Imagine “Fargo” without the woodchipper, but with more overalls and a heaping side of moral ambiguity.

“Brother’s Keeper” serves up a slice of backwoods Americana so authentic you can practically smell the cow manure and courtroom tension.

It’s a true-crime hoedown where the suspects are more “Of Mice and Men” than “Silence of the Lambs,” leaving you wondering if the real killer might just be the American Dream itself.

This is a doc that was so good that Spalding Gray wouldn’t get up to go take a pee (even after a lot of water and coffee).

It’s currently the Xth best documentary in my X Ranking

Trailers for “Brother’s Keeper”

This doc was so good that I’m including 3 trailers for it.

First, here’s a short traditional trailer:

Short Trailer

But, then, check this out.

This trailer below is really a promotional (unpaid) plug of Brother’s Keeper by actor and novelist Spalding Gray about him watching it:

Spalding Gray Talks About Seeing Brother’s Keeper for the First Time at Sundance

And, finally, here’s Siskel & Ebert’s review of it:

Watch “Brother’s Keeper”

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“Brother’s Keeper” can also be streamed for free (but with ads) here:

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  • My Rating: 98/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 88/100 (Users); 100/100 (Critics)

Release Date: January 1992

Review of “Brother’s Keeper”

The story kicks off with a death.

William Ward is found dead in the rural backwoods of Munnsville, New York where he and his four reclusive (and illiterate) brothers live in squalor like it’s 1892.

William’s brother Delbert gets fingered for the “murder”.

The method? Smothering.

Delbert is not your typical suspect.

He’s illiterate, has the mental capacity of a child, and is bewildered by the whole mess.

Yet, here he is, accused of murder.

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (who later did the Paradise Lost trilogy and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) co-direct this this 1992 104 minute gem of Americana.

Here’s where it gets nuts.

The town (Population: more cows than people) rally around Delbert. It’s like “To Kill a Mockingbird” meets “Deliverance.”

The murder investigation is a rollercoaster of wtf moments. Delbert confesses, but did he really do it?

The locals steal the show.

They’re ride-or-die for Delbert.

The directors play it cool. No judgement, just “here’s the circus, folks.”

You’ll question everything you thought you knew about guilt and innocence.

The trial scenes are bonkers. Expert witnesses contradict each other like it’s their job. Delbert in court is a sight to behold.

This doc is more than just true crime. It’s a slice of Americana.

Pacing’s slow, but in a good way.

Like sipping whiskey, not chugging beer. Each revelation hits you like a fastball to the noggin.

Old photos and footage add spice to this already zesty gumbo. You’ll see Munnsville transform from Norman Rockwell to Norman Bates.

Legal experts chime in, reminding us that small-town justice is its own beast. It’s “Law & Order: Hicksville Unit.”

This film changed the documentary game.

It’s the grandpappy of modern true crime. Without it, there’d be no “Making a Murderer.”

You’re welcome, Netflix.

Berlinger and Sinofsky struck gold here. They became the Scorsese and Coppola of docs. Minus the mafia, plus more cow dung.

“Brother’s Keeper” ages like fine moonshine.

Still kicks like a mule after all these years. It makes you ponder America’s rural-urban divide.

No neat bow at the end, folks. You’ll be scratching your head for days.

Watch this doc. It’s a masterpiece of “you can’t make this sh!t up” cinema. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you might need a shower after.

It’s a time capsule of a vanishing America. Weird, wonderful, and totally bonkers.

Miss it and you’re missing out, period.

Quotes from Spalding Gray about Watching “Brother’s Keeper”

Spalding Gray loves this doc so much. Here are a few quotes from him:

  • “It was so gripping that I couldn’t find a single moment to tear myself away to go take a pee…I was in pain”.
  • “I walked out of that theater mesmerized, transfixed, changed…completely like I had an experience on film…which is very rare.”
  • “I felt like I was sitting on a jury, judging whether this brother had smothered his brother with a pillow”.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc