Perhaps the most clichéd statement in modern filmmaking is “they don’t make them like they used to”. Well, of course they don’t – not in the context implied anyway. Back in the 1940s and 50s when American cinema was so alive with developmental wonder and thoughtful resourcing, audiences were still truly stunned by the transporting nature of film. Remember, those who sat in a theatre and watched say Casablanca were likely women sheltering themselves from the horrors of the surrounding world…
These days, Hollywood is spent of ideas and intrigue, yet turns over more and more dollars every year. Perhaps some don’t know but what studio filmmaking earns annually compared to India’s ‘Bollywood’ output is quite frankly pittance, but that’s besides the point. The films that the world has been crazy for across 2015 have already been seen in one form or another – Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Star Wars: The Force Awakens – all extensions of a previously established medium.
As our multiplexes become further engulfed by superhero cavalcades and surging Stormtroopers, there still needs to be room for quainter, more thoughtful films like John Crowley’s mesmeric Brooklyn (in UK cinemas 6th November). A possible contender for Best Picture, yet will likely open across Western screens on particularly limited release, it is a work that actually defies the silly saying which introduced this piece.
Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s celebrated novel and penned by the great Nick Hornby, Brookyn has that very rare quality: it is able to immerse totally. Just like the era in which the film is set (early 1950s), watching feels like living; we experience just what those who occupied the cinemas did as Britain and the USA marched into World War II. Across 112 minutes, reality completely slips away and instead we are thrown on-board a ship leaving Ireland and heading for The Big Apple across desperately thrashing seas. No other film this year has been able to truly enrapture this writer quite like the subtle beauty and brilliance of Crowley’s latest.
These days, going to the flicks isn’t cheap. Imagine taking a family of four to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D at a central London location. You are looking at nearly £90 for that privilege, and that cost does not include any snacks, drinks or travel fees. Now imagine if you exit the film having not enjoyed it…exactly. If audiences are to be expected to fork out that severe volume of cash, you’d better be transported, thrilled, stunned and breath-taken – all things many will likely experience whilst watching Star Wars mind…
Worse than the cost is the monopoly of these mega-blockbusters. Nothing else across the December period will get a look in when J.J. Abrams’ epic hits, and that momentum will likely journey into January. Wonderful for Disney, joyous for fans, but when the dust settles and the hype fades, audiences will again start spurting “they don’t make them like they used to”. Well they do actually; you just have to hunt for them.
We need more films like Brooklyn to be successful – penetrate the crowded market and prove there is still much validity in independent filmmaking. These films will never earn the likes of your studio heavyweights, but they can have an ever-lasting effect on the spectator because they enrapture emotionally rather than visually. No matter how brilliant a film looks and sounds, it can never compare with one that feels and moves. Great characters, great storytelling, great film: simple as that.
Films of this nature often find life on the festival circuit, with Brooklyn being no exception, but by the time the theatrical release comes around, only a couple break the mould and crank into awards territory. Last year it was Whiplash, one expects this year it’ll be Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. There certainly should be a wealth of nominations here – with Saoirse Ronan’s incredible performance the most likely candidate – but it isn’t all about naked golden statues and plush evening gowns, it is about amazing cinema; something we are frequently devoid of these days.
The vibrantly beating heart of film lies in works like this, not the mecha-industrial cogs of say Marvel Studios, and the sooner global audiences realise that, the better. Click here to read our full ★★★★★ review of Brooklyn and check back with Movie Marker for more content on this incredible film.