This is peak realism from director Ferit Karahan, who displays shades of Ken Loach, Alan Clarke and Clio Barnard in his account of a boarding school stranded amongst the snowy mountains of Eastern Anatolia. Turksoy Golebeyi’s boxy camerawork does well in capturing the geography of the school, following Yusef (Samet Yildiz) and his sickly friend Memo (Nurullah Alaca) as they navigate the rooms, hallways and yards of their brutalist institution. This is complimented by the stark grading, which casts a chilly, dispiriting ambience.
The school is a harsh place for Yusef and Memo, and not just because of the weather. Their teachers are uniformly authoritarian, treating them and every other kid with impatience and contempt. The teachers aren’t monstrous, but they are waspish and cruel. The worst cruelty occurs when Memo is forced to have a cold shower because of a minor altercation. This exposure causes Memo to fall ill, which presents a challenge to the hardened staff.
The staff’s rank ineptitude and hypocrisy unravels as they try to help this increasingly sick boy. It appears to be the first time in a long time that they’ve done anything other than browbeat, and it is clear that they are at a total loss.
There’s humour in these characterisations, especially the headmaster, who postures about in his suit and overcoat, delusions of grandeur swirling around his pompous head. But as the film reaches the end of its 85 minutes, it becomes clear that Brother’s Keeper is a minor piece of work that is subdued to a fault. It may be arresting to look at, but as far as institutional dramas go, it will not raise your hackles.