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Film / Three Brothers

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Three Brothers is a 1981 film from Italy, directed and co-written by Francesco Rosi.

The Giuranna family comes from southern Italy. Family matriarch Giovanna passes away. Donato, her husband, sends telegrams to his three sons summoning them back home to the funeral. Each son is in turn having a moment of personal crisis. The three sons are:

  • Raffaele, the oldest, a judge, who is about to preside over a terrorism trial. The terrorists, left-wingers, have been sending death threats to both Raffaele and his wife and son.
  • Rocco, who is an administrator at a home for troubled youth. Rocco is having to deal with the police, who are blaming the children in his facility for a series of burglaries.
  • Nicola, the youngest—20 years younger than Raffaele, in fact—is bound up in a strike at the factory where he works. Worse, he and his wife have separated after she cheated on him.

Also arriving at the family farm is Nicola's little daughter, Marta, who bonds with her grandfather.


  • America Won World War II: It could have been British tanks. Or even Polish! But nope, there's a white star on the side.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Raffaele has one about his own assassination.
  • Down on the Farm: While all three sons have left for the city, the father still lives on their ancestral farm. One dilemma is whether he'll be able to stay there.
  • Dream Sequence: Rocco has a dream in which the kids at his reformatory sweep up a huge pile of guns and drugs.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Seeing as how their mother is lying in her bed and doesn't seem to have been embalmed, it can't be more than 24 hours or so.
  • Flashback:
    • Rocco, when looking at his mother's body lying on the bed, remembers her hugging him as they took shelter in a barn, right before American tanks rolled in.
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    • Donato has one to his marriage and honeymoon with Giovanna.
  • Identical Grandson: The same actor who plays Rocco also plays Rocco's father Donato in the flashback.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Both pans and zooms used when Raffaele is looking over the crime scene photos of a judge, like him, who was assassinated by terrorists.
  • Left Hanging: The plotlines of the brothers. Specifically, Raffaele is apparently still going to go ahead with the trial, but we don't know for sure, and we don't find out how the trial played out. And Nicola had some Sex with the Ex when he went back to visit his estranged wife, but we don't find out if they're getting back together or not.
  • The One That Got Away: Rosaria, who was Nicola's old girlfriend but whom apparently broke up with him after he was drafted into the Army. Nicola still regrets it.
    Nicola: Maybe we should have got married.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The death of the mother is the occasion for the three sons to come back home.
  • Rule of Three: Three, count 'em, three brothers, all going through moments of crisis. And they represent the poles of political opinion in Italy, Raffaele being a conservative, Nicola being a left-winger, and Rocco being more centrist and conciliatory.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Nicola gets in bed with his wife, they start rolling around...cut to Nicola back in his old bed on his father's farm.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Nicola feels this about going back home.
    Nicola: I suddenly realized my village was no longer a part of me.