CAPSULE: BROOKLYN 45 (2023)

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Brooklyn 45 releases on Friday, June 9, exclusively on Shudder and AMC+.

DIRECTED BY: Ted Geoghegan

FEATURING: Anne Ramsay, Ezra Buzzington, Archibald Stanton, Kristina Klebe, , Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm

PLOT: Following the close of the Second World War, Colonel Hockstatter invites his friends over for a séance in the hopes of contacting his dead wife; the evening turns out to be far more illuminating than any of the attendants would have hoped for.

Still from Brooklyn 45 (2023)

COMMENTS: One could, theoretically, craft a languid melodrama in which old friends with unspeakable pasts gather one evening at Yuletide, weighed down by the tension of physical proximity and psychological burdens, until revelations crash through the civil veneer. But, thank goodness, Ted Geoghegan said, “Nuts to that.” Brooklyn 45 is a ghost story, thriller, chamber drama—and I emphasize the singularity of “chamber” here—and contemplation on the horrors of war. Brooklyn 45 makes its zippy pacing believable by taking full advantage of its catalyst: a séance.  A communication with the dead. The past. And there are few groups of five characters with as messy a shared history as Marla, a former interrogator; Bob, a Pentagon desk-jockey; Archie, a real Yankee doodle dandy; Paul, an all-brass veteran; and Clive, a broken widower.

Brooklyn 45 is a period piece that plays out like a period production. It would be at home as a TV special from the 1970s, with its faded-candy-colored sets, props, and costumes. The dialogue isn’t stilted, but echoes vintage radio. The action (so to speak) rests at the intersection of Clue! and Twelve Angry Men. It even features a delightfully subtle opening of a curtain, as we see three people arrive at their place of judgement, and then later closing on three of the players exiting the bloody drama. We are watching performances; we are listening to reminiscences; we are being told a story.

This story is, at least, five stories. And while a keen attention to period detail anchors the viewer (I particularly enjoyed the empty packet of “Westerfields”), that doesn’t mean we’ve been abandoned in a do-nothing room. Various punctuations act as triggers: a door is sealed; a light switch turned off; the radio is silenced; and, before expected, a gun is fired. Geoghegan’s self-assurance is apparent here, as he does not shy away from the tools a contemporary teller of tales has on-hand. Time is of the essence, and there is much to learn as we are locked in a room with war criminals, spies, torturers, and ghosts.

We’re also in this room with Bob, the milquetoast bureaucrat. His wife, Marla, moving so assuredly with cane in hand and firm tone on her lips, intrigues from the start. Archie alternately charms and disappoints (morally speaking) as a semi-closeted homosexual awaiting a war crimes trial. Major DiFranco hits all the right notes;  a highly moral military man with some serious regrets. And Colonel Hockstetter evinces confusion and pity. But Bob, whose mild-manner immediately telegraphs he is doomed to a radical shift, is introduced as, and remains, a cipher. Brooklyn 45 is about the past, and the weight it bears down on the present. With this cryptic character, Geoghegan demonstrates that, even though he plays many cards in this film, he’s still keeping a few close to his chest. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

” I was very pleasantly surprised to find a film so very oddly tender and tragic at the heart of a story that also features ectoplasmic seances and Geoghegan’s trademark pension for schlocky gore…”—Hunter Heilman, Elements of Madness (contemporaneous)

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