Brightburn movie review: An interesting subversion

When the shadows loom larger, Tori’s conviction that Kyle’s doubts arise from the fact that he has never accepted Brandon, come to the fore. Is that what makes it easier for us to believe in ‘super-heroes’, in whatever form? Advertising

What if Clark Kent turned out to be super-bad? As a sweet, loving Brandon (Jackson) suddenly transforms into a sullen, aggressive boy, like all parents, Tori and Kyle Breyer (Banks, Denman), refuse to see that dark side, several times wishing it away as hormonal change caused by the onset of puberty. But, while the film gets many other things right, it, frustratingly, gets several wrong. A wonderful actor always, Banks is the anchor for this family, guarding her son from the world even as her own collapses, and Denman supports her well. That’s the rather ingenious premise of Brightburn, in which a couple rescue a child who crashes into their backyard in a spaceship, in a setting similar to the Kents’, and adopt him, only to see him turn out to be what they always instinctively feared.  

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Brightburn’s failure is that it doesn’t capitalise on these emotions, which can be of any child or parents, in of course more milder circumstances. It may be no coincidence that several names behind this film, from director Yarovesky and writers Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, to child actor Dunn, are variously associated with the ever-expanding universe of super-men and women. Brandon has few anxieties other than to ensure his parents stay in illusion, and he can act aggressive or defensive as the need may be. But as the body count mounts too quickly and almost too indiscriminately, as Brandon mounts the horrors, the film also causes us to ponder what is it that really underlines our unease: Is it coming face to face with pure, unrelenting evil, here in the shape of a child? Jackson, who played the young Scott Lang in Avengers: Endgame, is excellent as the boy who turns almost overnight from his mother’s “small baby” to a 12-year-old who scares his classmates and adults who have known him years. For them to lend their names to a story about super-beings who could forge a reality that is entirely alternative, and — let’s face it — very plausible, to one that is time and again a box office surety, lends an extra burnish to Brightburn. The thing is, you will find yourselves kind of waiting for it. Instead it revels in the horror stuff, dragging out its violence in grisly, bloody, shocking detail, even while rushing through the strain that the loving Breyer family comes under. Brightburn leaves the good vs evil fight for another day.