Family dynamics can be challenging, particularly when sibling rivalry and jealousy arise, and in cases where one sibling achieves significant success. In Shadow Brother Sunday, Alden Ehrenreich‘s inaugural foray into writing and directing, these conflicts are vividly portrayed, showcasing the internal struggle we often conceal behind our societal (and familial) mask.

Right from its opening shots, this 15-minute short film evokes a rare sense of lived history. It skillfully combines moments of dark humor, capturing the awkwardness inherent in family gatherings, with an unexpected undercurrent of mounting anxiety. This tension emanates from the character of Cole, enveloping the audience in waves of stressful attempts at reaching a catharsis.

The narrative commences with Cole (played by Ehrenreich) amidst a boisterous family gathering, as the others eagerly anticipate the arrival of his movie-star brother.

source: Vanishing Angle Productions

We are introduced to Jacob (played by Nick Robinson), Cole’s younger brother, as he appears on a television interview. Prior to his arrival, we learn that Cole has received a substantial financial offer to gain access to Jacob’s laptop and share personal information.

Various things put a stopper in making the heist smooth, and based on Cole’s demeanor, audiences may wonder too: is there a reason?

This act of betrayal appears both desperate and morally reprehensible, a realization that gradually dawns on Cole throughout the course of the short film, prompting him to confront the emotional detachment that has hindered their bond as brothers.

Through his multifaceted approach encompassing the script, direction, and his undeniable on-screen performance, Ehrenreich masterfully builds palpable unease. He introduces us to a world we know and yet are unfamiliar with, delivering a stellar portrayal and a compelling narrative.

While the writing is terrific, lean yet never wasteful, encouraging every line (and by extension each shot) to be purposeful, one can’t deny the casting and magnetism of our two leads is the standout. Their expressions convey memories and a deep well of emotions that bring this story to its riveting close.

Shadow Brother Sunday accomplishes numerous feats, boasting pitch-perfect performances, and as a director and writer, Ehrenreich displays remarkable promise. He demonstrates a clear vision that’s executed within the constraints of the limited screen time, yet yields exceptional results.

Please sir, can I have some more?

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