The Brothers McMullen is a 1995 American comedy-drama film written, directed, produced by, and starring Edward Burns. It deals with the lives of the three Irish Catholic McMullen brothers from Long Island, New York, over three months, as they grapple with basic ideas and values — love, sex, marriage, religion and family — in the 1990s.

Plot[edit | edit source]

The film begins with Finbar "Barry" McMullen standing at the grave of his recently deceased father, along with his mother, who tells him that she's returning to her native Ireland to be with Finbar O'Shaughnessy (after whom Barry is named), her sweetheart of long ago. She tells Barry that while she gave Barry's father 35 of the best years of her life, she's going to start living life her way with the man she really loves.

Jack has purchased their parents' home and lives in it with his wife Molly. Jack is torn between his love for Molly and his lust for Ann, a former romantic interest of Barry's.

Barry and the youngest brother, Patrick ask to temporarily move in with Jack, to which he reluctantly agrees. Patrick plans to break his engagement to Susan, but becomes depressed when she breaks up with him. After much pleading, Susan decides to take him back. Patrick then decides to end the relationship for good for Leslie, an auto mechanic. They decide to head out to California together in a classic car that Leslie has been working on.

Barry shows no interest in a long-term relationship, until he meets Audrey, a woman whom he accuses of "stealing" an apartment that he was trying to rent for himself. Though things do not go well between them at first, they warm up to one another and start a relationship.

Molly learns of Jack's affair after finding a wrapped condom in his pants as she is cleaning up after him one day. She confronts Jack, but he refuses to discuss it.

Jack finally breaks it off for good with Ann. He then returns home determined to rebuild his wounded marriage, but not before paying a visit to his father's grave, promising (in a voice-over) that he will be a better husband to his wife than his father was, pouring a bottle of Irish whiskey over the grave.

Barry decides to move in with Audrey and take their relationship to the next level. The movie ends with all three brothers gathering at the family homestead with a newfound belief in love and a desire to not let the ghosts of the past stand in their way.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Productions[edit | edit source]

Edward Burns wrote the screenplay in the spring of 1993 while working as a production assistant for Entertainment Tonight, where he worked for cameraman Dick Fisher, who later produced and edited the film. Burns' own Irish Catholic background fed into the screenplay, and film was mostly shot in Burns' real-life family home, a house in the Valley Stream community of Long Island. Shooting took place on weekends over an eight-month period in New York State.

The film, which was shot on 16mm film, originally cost only $28,000, essentially the cost of raw stock and processing. Burns saved money by placing an advertisement in Backstage magazine looking for Irish-American actors willing to work for free, though lunch would be provided.

When Robert Redford was at the Entertainment Tonight studios for an interview, Burns approached him at the elevator and gave him a copy of the film, asking Redford to watch it. Redford later extended an invitation to show it at the Sundance Film Festival. The showing led to a distribution deal, which included an additional $200,000 for post production work and to get the rights for the Sarah McLachlan song "I Will Remember You", which was added over the end credits.

Reception[edit | edit source]

The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. It was picked up for distribution by 20th Century Fox and grossed over $10 million at the US box office, making it one of the most profitable independent films of that era. According to Tom Rothman, it was also the first film ever released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which Tom Rothman started for 20th Century Fox, in order to release Independent, Dramedy, Foreign and Arthouse films, despite being in Hollywood. Edward Burns was called "The New Woody Allen" and even continued to make Woody Allen-esque films afterwards.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 89% rating based on 36 critics.

External links[edit | edit source]

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