Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, Secondhand Lions) has a knack for giving good performances in bad movies, so John Magary’s assured debut, The Mend, upends expectations by aligning a good actor with a good film. Normally a pleasant-looking man, Lucas appears to have bathed in a toilet bowl to play Mat, a Giant Id who lives to eat, drink, and fuck. Mat reconnects with his lawyer brother, Alan (Stephen Plunkett, equally strong), when he crashes his Harlem house party. The brothers aren’t close, but Mat likes Alan’s forthright girlfriend (Frances Ha’s Mickey Sumner), whom he describes as “gritty.”
The next day, Alan and his girlfriend take off for Montreal, oblivious to the guest sleeping on their couch. Left to his own devices in the Harlem apartment, Mat invites over his girlfriend (Lucy Owen) and her son, cooks some mac and cheese, breaks a bottle, and bleeds all over the kitchen floor.
When Alan returns home sooner than expected, a makeshift family dynamic ensues. Instead of cutting from brother to brother, the writer-director imbues every actor with an inner life, from Austin Pendleton as a family friend to Cory Nichols as an inquisitive kid.
With its string-saturated score and snappy one-liners, The Mend infuses psychodrama with comedy. It’s as if Ingmar Bergman and the Safdie brothers got together to make a movie. However you define it, it’s quite wonderful.