The Sisters Brothers (film)

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The Sisters Brothers
The Sisters Brothers.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJacques Audiard
Screenplay byJacques Audiard
Thomas Bidegain
Based onThe Sisters Brothers
by Patrick deWitt
Produced by
CinematographyBenoît Debie
Edited byJuliette Welfling
Music byAlexandre Desplat
Distributed byMirror Releasing (United States)
UGC Distribution (France)[1]
Release dates
  • 2 September 2018 (2018-09-02) (Venice)
  • 21 September 2018 (2018-09-21) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[2]
  • France
  • United States
Budget$38 million[3]
Box office$13.1 million[4]

The Sisters Brothers is a 2018 Western film directed by Jacques Audiard from a screenplay he co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain, based on the novel of the same name by Patrick deWitt. An American and French co-production, it is Audiard's first English-language work. The film stars John C. Reilly (who also produced) and Joaquin Phoenix as the notorious assassin brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters, and follows the two brothers as they chase after two men (Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed) who have banded together to search for gold.

The film had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on 2 September 2018, where it won the Silver Lion for Best Direction, and was theatrically released in the United States on 21 September 2018. The Sisters Brothers received positive reviews from critics, with most praise going to its performances, characters, direction and soundtrack. It was a box office bomb, grossing $13.1 million against its $38 million production budget. It was the final feature film featuring Rutger Hauer released before his death, although he had finished filming several projects released after his passing.


In the American West in 1851, gunfighters Eli and Charlie Sisters are hired by the wealthy "Commodore" to kill a man named Hermann Warm.

John Morris, a private detective, has been hired by the Commodore to track Warm down and hand him over to the Sisters brothers. Morris finds Warm traveling by wagon train to California with the Gold Rush and befriends him. They travel to Jacksonville where Morris has arranged his rendezvous with the Sisters brothers. Warm finds Morris’ handcuffs, realizes his true intentions, and threatens him at gunpoint but Morris overpowers him. Warm reveals that he plans to find gold using a chemical formula of his own invention; the Sisters brothers have been sent to retrieve the formula, most likely by torturing Warm before killing him. Refusing to allow an innocent man’s murder, Morris frees Warm and the two leave Jacksonville. On the road toward San Francisco, Warm reveals that his ultimate plan is to create a utopian society in Dallas, Texas.

The brothers' pursuit is plagued by misfortune. A grizzly bear attacks their camp and mauls Eli's horse, Eli almost dies from a venomous spider bite and Charlie is repeatedly drunk and too hung over to ride. When they discover Morris' betrayal in Jacksonville, they follow the pair to Mayfield. At Ms. Mayfield's hotel and brothel, she denies having seen Warm and Morris but offers the brothers a warm welcome. A sympathetic prostitute warns Eli of an impending attack and he attempts to leave with a drunken Charlie but they are cornered by Mayfield's gunslingers. The brothers kill the gunslingers and interrogate Mayfield as to Warm's and Morris’ whereabouts, before murdering and robbing her.

In San Francisco, Charlie and Eli argue about continuing their hunt. Eli wishes to retire and open a store, but Charlie angrily rejects this idea. The next day, Charlie reveals that he has found a claim staked in Morris’ name a few days' ride away. Eli agrees to complete the hunt as their final job.

On the way to the claim site, the brothers are ambushed and captured by Warm and Morris, who are then attacked by Mayfield's men sent before her death to claim the formula for herself. The four team up to kill Mayfield's men, after which Charlie and Eli agree to help Warm and Morris find gold in exchange for half the takings. Morris is revealed to be a wealthy young man from Washington DC, who came west in rebellion against his father, now dead, and to whom Warm's Dallas phalanstère project has at last given a purpose in life. Working to dam the river, the new partners develop a camaraderie. Eli reveals to Warm that Charlie killed their abusive, alcoholic father when they were young, and that Charlie's short temper and violent tendencies put him in danger, so Eli reluctantly took up their present employment to protect him.

The dam is completed and Warm explains that when his chemical formula is added to water, it causes gold ore to glow briefly, but is extremely caustic. The men pour the formula into the river and begin gathering the gold. When the glow begins to fade, Charlie panics and tries to add more formula, but spills the undiluted substance onto his hand and into the river. Morris, rushing to restrain Charlie, stumbles and is submerged in the contaminated water while Warm, ignoring Eli's warnings, jumps in to rescue him. The next day, Warm, blinded and badly burned, dies from his injuries while Morris shoots himself to end his suffering.

Eli takes Charlie to the nearest town, where a doctor amputates his arm. Hired guns sent by the Commodore arrive and demand their surrender. Eli shoots them and he and Charlie decide they must kill the Commodore. They arrive in Oregon City to find that he has already died. The brothers' are the only mourners at the Commodore's open casket; Eli punches the corpse several times "just to make sure". The brothers return home to their mother; though initially suspicious, she welcomes them in.



In 2011, it was announced that the film rights to the novel The Sisters Brothers had been sold to John C. Reilly's production company, and Reilly was set to play one of the brothers.[5] Four years later, French director Jacques Audiard announced on the radio station RTL that he would direct the film, his first English-language feature.[6] On 25 April 2016, Deadline Hollywood reported that Joaquin Phoenix had joined the project.[7] In February 2017, Variety reported that Jake Gyllenhaal had also been cast, later announcing that Riz Ahmed joined as well.[8][9] In May, Variety stated that Annapurna Pictures would also produce and co-finance the film, alongside Why Not Productions, with Megan Ellison serving as an executive producer on the project.[10]

The film started shooting in early June 2017 in the Spanish city Almería, and continued the shoot throughout the summer in Tabernas, Navarre and Aragon.[11]


The Sisters Brothers had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on 2 September 2018.[12] It was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September,[13] and was theatrically released on 21 September 2018. Annapurna paid between $7.5–9 million for the North American distribution rights.[3][14]


Box office[edit]

As of May 9, 2019, The Sisters Brothers has grossed $3.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $10 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $13.1 million, against a production budget of $38 million.[4]

During its limited opening weekend, on 21 September, the film grossed $115,575 from four theaters, an average of $28,894 per venue.[15] It expanded to 27 theaters in its second weekend, making $233,258, and to 54 theaters in its third, grossing $203,525.[16][17] By its seventh weekend of release, the film had crossed $3 million domestically, after grossing $66,665 in 146 theaters that weekend. Its widest release was at 1,141 theaters.[18]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 87%, based on 208 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Sisters Brothers rides familiar genre trails in occasionally unexpected ways - a satisfying journey further elevated by its well-matched leading men."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on reviews from 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[20]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, calling it "resoundingly enjoyable and funny".[21] William Bibbiani of IGN assigned it an 8.0 out of 10, saying, "John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix shine as wild west hitmen who are just smart enough to know they should be smarter, [and] whose quest leads them in unexpected, funny, and surprisingly emotional directions."[22] Owen Gleibermen of Variety wrote, "The Sisters Brothers is too light to be a true drama and too heavy to be a comedy."[23]

The film earned a warm response, including a standing ovation, at the 75th Venice International Film Festival.[24] Jacques Audiard won the Silver Lion for Best Director at the festival.[25]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
COFCA Awards 3 January 2019 Actor of the Year Joaquin Phoenix (also for Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot and You Were Never Really Here) Nominated [citation needed]
César Awards 22 February 2019 Best Film Pascal Caucheteaux, Grégoire Sorlat, Michel Merkt and Jacques Audiard Nominated [26][27]
Best Director Jacques Audiard Won
Best Adaptation Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain Nominated
Best Cinematography Benoît Debie Won
Best Editing Juliette Welfling Nominated
Best Sound Cyril Holtz Won
Best Original Music Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Costume Design Milena Canonero Nominated
Best Production Design Michel Barthélémy Won
Hollywood Music in Media Awards 14 November 2018 Original Score — Feature Film Alexandre Desplat Nominated
International Film Music Critics Award 21 February 2018 Best Original Score for a Comedy Film Nominated [28]
Lumières Award 4 February 2019 Best Film Jacques Audiard Won [29][30][31]
Best Director Won
Best Cinematography Benoît Debie Won
Best Music Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Magritte Award 1 February 2020 Best Foreign Film in Coproduction The Sisters Brothers Nominated [32]
Best Cinematography Benoît Debie Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Awards 5 January 2019 Best Actor John C. Reilly (also for Stan & Ollie) Nominated [33][34][35]
Louis Delluc Prize 25 October 2018 Best Film Jacques Audiard Nominated [36]
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 10 December 2018 Best Actor John C. Reilly Nominated [37]
Best Body of Work John C. Reilly (also for Ralph Breaks the Internet and Stan & Ollie) Won
Satellite Awards 22 February 2019 Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated [38]
Toronto International Film Festival 16 September 2018 People's Choice Award: Special Presentations Jacques Audiard Nominated [citation needed]
Venice Film Festival September 2018 Golden Lion Nominated [39]
Silver Lion for Best Direction Won


  1. ^ "The Sisters Brothers". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ "The Sisters Brothers". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Annapurna Upheaval: Megan Ellison Is 'Reevaluating' Film Division Amid Money Woes". TheWrap. October 10, 2018. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "The Sisters Brothers (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  5. ^ Charles, Ron (November 11, 2011). "Patrick deWitt's 'The Sisters Brothers' wins Governor General's Award in Canada". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  6. ^ Mintzer, Jordan (August 24, 2015). "Palme d'Or Winner Jacques Audiard Reveals First English-Language Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  7. ^ Jaafar, Ali (April 25, 2016). "Joaquin Phoenix In Talks To Join Jacques Audiard's English-Language Debut 'The Sisters Brothers'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (February 10, 2017). "Jake Gyllenhaal Joins Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Sisters Brothers' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  9. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 18, 2017). "Riz Ahmed Joins Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly in 'The Sisters Brothers' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  10. ^ Lang, Brent (May 19, 2017). "Annapurna Nabs Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal Western 'Sister's Brothers'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  11. ^ Randle, Emma (June 8, 2017). "'Big guns' arrive for French-made western". Costa News. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  12. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (July 25, 2018). "Venice Film Festival Lineup: Welles, Coen Brothers, Cuaron, Greengrass, More – Live". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Vlessing, Etan (July 24, 2018). "Toronto: Timothee Chalamet Starrer 'Beautiful Boy,' Dan Fogelman's 'Life Itself' Among Festival Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  14. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (October 10, 2018). "The Reasons Behind Annapurna's Tumultuous Week". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  15. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 23, 2018). "'The House With A Clock In Its Walls' Sounding Near $27M Alarm; Counterprogramming Still In Deep Sleep". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  16. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 30, 2018). "'Night School' Top Of The Weekend's Box Office Class With $28M; Best Opening For A Comedy So Far This Year". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  17. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 9, 2018). "'Venom' Flies To Near $90M; 'A Star Is Born' Has Rhythm With $51M As Monday Fall Holidays Propel Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  18. ^ Brooks, Brian (November 4, 2018). "'Boy Erased' With Robust Bow; 'A Private War' Aims OK: Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  19. ^ "The Sisters Brothers (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  20. ^ "The Sisters Brothers Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  21. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (September 2, 2018). "The Sisters Brothers review: Jacques Audiard saddles up for a subtle and funny western". The Guardian. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  22. ^ Bibbiani, William (September 20, 2018). "The Sisters Brothers Review". IGN. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  23. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (September 2, 2018). "Film Review: 'The Sisters Brothers'". Variety. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  24. ^ Variety Staff (September 2, 2018). "'The Sisters Brothers' Impresses Audiences in Venice". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  25. ^ Anderson, Ariston (September 8, 2018). "Venice: Alfonso Cuaron Wins Golden Lion for 'Roma'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  26. ^ "44th César Awards - Nominees". Variety. January 23, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  27. ^ "44th César Awards - Nominees". January 23, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  28. ^ "IFMCA Award Nominations 2018". February 7, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  29. ^ "The nominees for the Lumières Awards unveiled". Cineuropa - the best of european cinema. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  30. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (December 17, 2018). "France's Lumieres Awards Unveil Nominations". Variety. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  31. ^ "France's Lumière awards unveil mixed bag of nominations". Screen. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  32. ^ Bradfer, Fabienne (January 8, 2020). ""Duelles" et "Le jeune Ahmed" en tête des nominations des Magritte". Le Soir (in French). Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  33. ^ ""The Rider" is voted Best Picture of 2018". National Society of Film Critics. January 5, 2019. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  34. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (January 5, 2019). "National Society Of Film Critics Names Chloe Zhao's 'The Rider' As Best Picture". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  35. ^ Kilkenny, Katie (January 5, 2019). "'The Rider' Named Best Picture by the National Society of Film Critics". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  36. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (October 25, 2018). "Nine candidates for the 2018 Louis-Delluc Prize". Cineuropa (in French). Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  37. ^ "2018 San Diego Film Critics Society Award Winners". San Diego Film Critics Society. December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  38. ^ Johnson, Quendrith (January 3, 2019). "ROMA, A STAR IS BORN, Set for Top Honors at 23rd Satellite™ Awards". International Press Academy. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  39. ^ Travers, Peter (September 19, 2018). "Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 11, 2019.

External links[edit]