First-time feature writer and director John Magary's virtuosic indie "The Mend," about a pair of oil-and-water brothers in free fall, is by turns opaque, harsh, self-aware, indulgent and wickedly funny. It's never dull, pummeling you with its prickly smarts.
A bearded, shaggy Josh Lucas stars as Mat, a caustically self-destructive nomad who crashes a New York party thrown by his tightly wound brother Alan (Stephen Plunkett) and his live-in girlfriend, Farrah (Mickey Sumner). When Alan and Farrah leave for a hiking trip, Mat stays behind and moves in his single-mom girlfriend (Lucy Owen) and her son for a weird kind of domestic role-playing.
Act 3 brings Alan back, embittered and mournful about the state of his relationship, for a boozy and angry night of the broken souls. Inspired by the interpersonal tension of Arnaud Desplechin's emotional epics, yet also the macho vaudeville of John Cassavetes and maybe even family sitcoms, Magary engineers his cramped sibling-bond comedy with a refreshingly precise visual formality. It's a style that showcases the surgical humor but also evokes a percolating sense of danger. Magary is someone to watch.
The cast is up to the task too, with the coiled Lucas and weary Plunkett walking a fine line between being charismatically damaged and simply too awful to consider.
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes.
Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles.