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Review by Brad Green:
The official synopsis tells me that the film involves “that strange and wonderful thing called fate”. Well, whether you call it fate, or destiny, or kismet, when it comes to screenplays about Italian newlyweds or brides-to-be it likely encompasses a bigger twist than the so-called tying of the knot. I remember back in 1998, one of my very first contributions to Urban Cinefile was about an Italian production called Best Man, which had the girl in the wedding dress going gaga for the title Lothario, the guy who was only supposed to be minding the ring; and in this local production a Tuscan lass comes all the way to Australia only to fall for the bloke who’s recently become her brother-in-law. 

The action is set both in Italy and rural Oz, but the main characters are all Italian and the soundtrack shares their cultural background. In fact, you could imagine it being played by an orchestral ensemble in a Tuscan bistro, albeit the best damn bistro band in the whole of Italy. Composer Stephen Warbeck keeps almost every cue grounded firmly with European folk roots. He has become something of a specialist score writer for romantic narratives with Continental or British Isles backdrops, including gentle Victorian speculation (Mrs Brown), Elizabethan costume comedy (Shakespeare In Love), literary drama (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) and even a stroll on the deviant side (Quills). 

But if the Quills score was brilliantly inventive, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin intense and sophisticated, here Warbeck shows that he is equally comfortable when a project calls for a relaxed approached. Based on simple motifs and rarely straying from its folk-music foundations, this soundtrack boasts neither innovation nor complex orchestration; it won’t find a place among this year’s elite soundtracks, or Warbeck’s best work, but it does make for an easy listen from first cue to last. 

The central theme is established on strings, and the folk flavour of its melody is reinforced by the accordion and nylon string guitar passages that embellish the score. While maintaining a consistent sound throughout, Warbeck does manage to evoke subtle variations in mood, with the strings becoming gently triumphant in the cue Il Surriento, the minor motif of Destiny tugging cautiously at the heart and the 50s orchestral pop of Angelo and the jazzy adventurousness of Concetta providing short bursts of liveliness. There is also a sublime duet by world renowned tenors Marcelo Alvarez and Salvatore Licitra. 

Mostly, however, the music encourages us to contemplate a fateful story of love and marriage from a safe distance rather than hitching our deepest feelings to it. There aren’t enough sonic surprises to suggest that it is intended to reflect the detours the cosmos enforces on the best laid plans of wives and men. Instead it ponders such matters from its own perspective, with controlled sympathy and wry amusement, and as a result is more quietly enjoyable than emotionally gripping. 

Published June 24, 2004

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TITLE: Love’s Brother
ID: SK90393
SCORE: Stephen Warbeck

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