‘Little Brother’ rings true to sibling dynamics


What is a road trip movie? It might be about camaraderie, growth, changes and some unfolding insight.

The New Mexico-made film, “Little Brother,” becomes the epitome of road trip movies as it unfurls the relationship between brothers with a troubled dynamic.

The film follows Jake and Pete, estranged brothers who embark on a road trip together from Albuquerque to Seattle. Jake is tasked with driving Pete, who recently discharged himself from facility where he was staying in recovery following a suicide attempt.

After a slow start, the film sucks you in as it reveals, bit by bit, the relationships between the sons and the parents, the brothers and their expectations and the deep feelings of betrayal and confusion in sibling dynamics.

Jake, who is the younger, doesn’t understand why Pete would try to commit suicide, leaving himself and their parents in the resulting devastation it would cause.

“Please don’t leave me,” Jake begs at one point in the film as responsibility flips back and forth between the brothers. Pete, as the older brother, carried some caregiver duties when they were children. Jake is now responsible for getting his brother safely to Seattle.

There is so much to unpack and think about here, creating some gentle and touching moments as well as heart-wrenching ones that made me angry, and “hurray!” moments as well.

Themes here include forgiveness, understanding, loss, death, abandonment and, overarching all, the question of why.

“Little Brother” kicks off the 2024 Las Cruces International Film Festival on opening night, Wednesday, April 3. There will be four showings of the film, directed by Korean American writer and director Sheridan O’Donnell, scheduled at 6:30, 6:45, 7 and 7:15 p.m. at the Allen Theatre Cineport 10, 700 S. Telshor Blvd.

Daniel Diemer plays Jake, Philip Ettinger is Pete and J.K. Simmons and Polly Draper are their parents. Since its release in 2023, “Little Brother” has received several award nominations. The film won honors for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the Next Generation Indie Film Awards. 
“We are looking forward to the filmmakers and stars of the film who will attend and greet the audience and host a question-and-answer session after the screenings,” said Ross Marks, executive director of the festival and professor at New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute. 
O’Donnell, Ettinger, executive producer Mary Haarmeyer and producer Kegan Karnes will be on hand to engage with the audience after the showings to briefly discuss the making of the film.
Tickets to attend the screening of “Little Brother" are on sale now for $25. Other tickets for the April 3-7 festival are also available at LasCrucesFilmFest.com.

Movie review, Little Brother, New Mexico made film