Giggling, lusty whispers, shouting, blaring music, the library-like hush of a coffee shop: So begins The Mend, writer-director John Magary’s debut feature. The sequence of sounds acts as a precursor for the film that follows, swerving between muffled tension and outright primal screams. The loud-quiet-loud mirrors the film’s two main characters, brothers Mat (Josh Lucas) and Alan (Stephen Plunkett), sons of, we glean, a tomcatting father who left the two 30-somethings embittered and psychologically battered.
Scruffy and physically scarred, Mat bounces from abode to abode, pissing people off at every turn, pouring a beer on a girl before storming out of a bar, bumming menthol cigarettes off any black guy he sees, crashing his brother’s party, much to the displeasure of Alan’s girlfriend, Farrah (Mickey Sumner). Alan is the relative quiet to Mat’s loud, but though he’s more put-together, his affliction expresses itself internally. It doesn’t help the poor guy that Farrah is wound tight, lashing out at Alan’s inarticulate analysis of situations and planning out his proposal to her—but his love for her is an outward reflection of the criticism and anxiety he bathes himself in.
When Mat and Alan are unexpectedly thrown together for a few days without Farrah’s organization-enforcing presence, they knock around New York, mildly enjoying their time together when they aren’t disgusted by each other (as siblings do). Mat exercises a bad influence on Alan. They become inert. The power goes out in Alan’s apartment, and they make no motion to fix it. Dishes pile up in the sink. When the bathroom door locks from the inside, Mat pees on the dishes.
The sound team for The Mend often chooses to layer noise upon noise, adding another chaotic element to the film’s plot. In one scene, a helicopter whirs over Alan and Farrah’s apartment, where a dancer-types—friends of Farrah’s—chatter at a party; music with vocals plays in the background. In the rest of the film, when Alan isn’t playing music or Mat isn’t watching TV at the loudest level, a string-heavy, Stravinsky-esque score lends an even more dramatic air to the brothers’ adventure together. Like his sound mixer, Magary packs plenty into two hours, and in the end, we’re ready for some peace and quiet.