John C. Reilly (left) stars as “Eli Sisters” and Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars as “Charlie Sisters” in Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS, an Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Magali Bragard / Annapurna Pictures

Kooky Western ‘The Sisters Brothers’ Is Out to Explore Relationships, America, and Manhood

At first, director Jacques Audiard had zero interest in making a Western, but, when John C. Reilly hands you a book and asks you to give it a read, you do it. That was how the man best known for harrowing relationship drama Rust and Bone came to helm one of the fall’s most fascinating features.

Adapted Patrick deWitt’s eponymous novel, The Sisters Brothers tells the story of Eli and Charlie Sisters (Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix), two hired killers striking out across the untamed Northwest in a search for a chemist named Warm (Riz Ahmed) whose holed up with veteran scout John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). What begins as just another job for two quibbling brothers quickly descends into all-out chaos.

Reilly says of the movie, “The Sisters Brothers is about the founding of America and what it was built on. But in a more relatable human way it’s about relationships. It goes from the macro to the micro, and back.”

From its inception nearly six years ago, every aspect of The Sisters Brothers, from the immaculately-detailed costumes to the Spanish and Romanian shooting locations, was chosen to evoke classic Western elements thrust in a direction never before seen. Academy Award winner Milena Canonero provided her considerable skill to every outfit. The western United States was ruled out because the territory was too well trod in other Westerns. From the ground up, The Sisters Brothers is shooting to reinvent a fundamental Hollywood genre.

In the end, it might have taken someone who wasn’t interested in Westerns to make the best one released in years.