Review: Short Film REAVEY BROTHERS Focuses On A Tragic Moment In Northern Ireland’s History

4 out of 5 stars

Short films are cinematic sketches, a way of telling stories in an abbreviated fashion with the same dramatic momentum as a feature length narrative. At their best they can take complex themes and ideas and condense them into bite-size tales which can resonate as much with audiences as they do with their full-length counterparts. Director John Reavey’s short film, Reavey Bothers manages to achieve this by taking a moment in Northern Ireland’s dark and complex political history and telling a story with both heart and dramatic heft. 

Based on true events which occurred in the village of Whitecross, Armagh on 4th January 1976, the 20 minute film focuses on the killing of Anthony, Brian and John-Martin Reavey, three young brothers who were murdered in their home while they watched television. The murders, one of a series of ‘tit-for-tat killings’ which took place in both Catholic and Protestant communities during the mid-1970s, had a massive impact on the Reavey family as well as the community due to their brutal and unmotivated nature.

Funded by a successful crowdfunding campaign which netted over £20,000, Reavey Bothers was written by John Reavey (a nephew of the men killed) and Spanish writer Jordi Estapé. For a film with such a modest budget, this short never feels like it was compromised creatively. It has the look and feel of a production with much larger resources, and you can only imagine what Reavey would be able to do if he turned the film into a feature length film with a larger budget (as is the intention). 

Derry Girls star Dylan Llewellyn plays Anthony, the youngest Reavey brother, while Niall McNamee and Kevin Nugent portray his brothers, John-Martin and Brian. The three actors manage to get across the camaraderie between the men which creates a short-hand for their characters –  a key aspect in a film with a brief running time. Geraldine McAlinden has a small but pivotal role as Sadie, the mother of the three brothers. 

Reavey and Estapé’s screenplay for Reavey Brothers is succinct in its focus and credit must also go to cinematographer Natasha Duursma, composer Issac Faraz-Chandler and editor Morgan Perry for delivering a powerful short which certainly transcends its modest origins. 

A short film which shines a light on a significant event, Reavey Brothers tells its story with strong visuals and good characterisation. Understandably it lacks an over-arching narrative due to its tight running time, but Reavey Bothers still manages to create a dramatic film with emotional heft which focuses on a very tragic moment in the history of Northern Ireland.