AGNES AND HIS BROTHERS (yes that pronoun is correct -- Agnes, you see,
is a transsexual) is almost three different films in one. Writer-director Oskar Roehler
anchors his portrait of contemporary Germany by focusing on a trio of half-brothers
who share the same father but different mothers. We first meet Agnes (Martin Weiß)
as she recounts a tale about her mother to a older female friend (Fassbinder muse
Margit Carstensen). Since she never knew her mother, Agnes isn't even sure if the
story told to her by her father is true. We then are introduced to Agnes' two older
brothers, Werner (Herbert Knaup), an ambitious and wealthy politician whose
family life is rampant with strife, and Hans-Jörg (Moritz Bleibtreu), a meek librarian
and sex addict who blames his father for many of his troubles.

    The brothers rarely interact in the film except for one sequence as they are
driving to see their father (Vadim Glowna). While en route a bitter Hans-Jörg
recounts his beliefs that the father sexually assaulted Agnes as a child and also
threatened him as well. Angrily, he decides not to visit with their father and exits the
car. Agnes and Werner continue with the visit and then their lives all diverge.

    Agnes' boyfriend, who holds a day job, becomes fed up with her night work as
a dancer in a bar and throws her out of their apartment. She ends up being taken in
by a older stranger (Carstensen). There's a brief reunion with her ex-wife and two
children, as well an encounter with a former lover (American filmmaker Lee Daniels
in a role that feels shoehorned into the movie). Agnes also faces a health crisis that
is played out in a very minor key.

    Hans-Jörg's storyline revolves around his sex addiction and his compulsion
to follow women into the restroom where he spies on them while pleasuring himself.
He also attends a sex addicts group where another member suggest he audition
for work in pornographic movies. After he is humiliated at work by an old girlfriend
on whom he was spying, Hans-Jörg accepts the unlikely offer and ends up meeting
his soul mate, but only after having a climactic encounter with his father.

   While Werner's political fortunes are rising, his home life is crumbling. His wife
Signe (Katja Riemann) is unresponsive and cold. His teenage son Ralf (Tom Schiller)
is sullen and spends his time growing marijuana and shooting videos (including a        
rather compromising one of his father).

   The actors all deliver strong performances, with Bleibtreu, Knaup and Riemann
taking top honors. There are some missteps on Roehler's part, particularly where
Agnes is concerned. Her encounter with her former lover isn't integrated well, nor is
her sudden illness. Indeed, Agnes is given short shrift in the overall scheme of the film.
There are also a number of plot strands left hanging -- which I ordinarily wouldn't mind
since I'm not a big fan of Hollywood's penchant for spoon-feeding audiences with
things neatly wrapped up. In this case, though, I would have liked a tighter ending.

                                    Rating:                    B -
                                    MPAA rating:         NONE
                                    Running time:         115 minutes

                                                Viewed at Magno Review Two
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
(Agnes ... und seine bruder)