Monday 22 January 2018

Movie reviews: Brooklyn is understated but powerful

Brooklyn Cert 12A

Emotional tale: Domhnall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan in 'Brooklyn', based on the novel by Colm Toibin.
Emotional tale: Domhnall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan in 'Brooklyn', based on the novel by Colm Toibin.

Aine O'Connor and Hilary A White

Reviewed this week are Brooklyn, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and Fresh Dressed.

Life in Enniscorthy in 1952 proves less than dazzling for Eilis Lacey (Ronan) so, at the behest of her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) and with the help of a Brooklyn-based priest (Jim Broadbent), Eilis leaves for New York. She finds it terribly difficult to adapt to her new home in the boarding house run by Mrs Kehoe (a fantastic turn by Julie Walters), to her job in a department store, and to the excruciating homesickness that eats her heart. But she steps up and makes efforts, to train as a book-keeper, to help the less well-off, and to socialise. She meets Tony (an excellent Emory Cohen), a romance begins, and Eilis's view of New York changes. When events force her to return to Wexford she secretly marries Tony as a promise of return, but life in Enniscorthy is far more appealing for the new Eilis not least because of Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson).

This is a story about decent people trying to do their best. It doesn't sound exciting but it is really well done, with a great cast, understated but powerful, it's genuinely ­affecting, atmospheric, often funny, and very accessible. 4 stars


Opens Nov 6

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

Cert: Club

In an age where a black president sits in the White House and police brutality continues to follow racially aggravated guidelines, it seems bizarre that we had to wait until now for a feature documentary about the Black Panther Party (BPP).

After seven years in construction, it’s very much a case of better late than never for Stanley Nelson’s robust portrait of a group most associated with black berets, shades and leather-gloved salutes. While carving a fashion-savvy brand was key to the Panthers’ rise, there was more to it, which is where this film comes in.

Formed in 1966, the party sought to defend and supervise whenever African-Americans and the police collided. Those were of course revolutionary times (50 nations had achieved independence in the decade preceding the group’s ­establishment, we’re reminded) and the BPP was a reactionary but logical step in the era’s counter-cultural evolution. Chapters opened across the US but a lack of screening saw it become a refuge for hooligans. By the end of the 60s, FBI chief J Edgar Hoover had labelled the group (whose majority were now female) the biggest threat to internal security. It turned out, however, they were also a threat to themselves.

Nelson speaks with many on the ground at the time, as well as FBI agents who provide balance and context. This lack of outright hagiography is most welcome; Nelson charts both the socialist principles and community work of the Panthers, but also the ill-disciplined and corrupt element that ultimately led to its downfall. 4 stars


Now showing at IFI

Fresh Dressed

Cert: Club

Of all music genres, hip-hop more than any is symbiotically linked with the world of fashion, and this film explains why. Sacha Jenkins’ doc chronicles the relationship with a cocksure rhythm that harmonises with the music, the loud styles and the swagger of their proponents.

We start back in olden times when slaves had to wear their ‘Sunday best’ to ensure the reputation of their masters in church. The Jazz Era and then Little Richard offered their own takes on sartorial flamboyance before the 70s Bronx ghettos saw many use gang colours to carve out status amid penury and

social disenfranchisement. Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC and LL Cool J did the rest and a fashion was etched in stone.

We soon reach the ­primary- coloured bagginess of the 90s where shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and In Living Colour displayed the wares of street-clothing labels such as Cross Colours and Karl Kani. But it was when Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs’s Sean John label began making megabucks by selling the idea of a lifestyle that suddenly every rap star had to have their own clothing line. The market became ­saturated with bandwagon-jumping ­corporates.

Jenkins’ film is a ­thorough compendium of the ­interplay between those two worlds, with a clear-minded, ­story-

teller’s approach to it all. With rap star Nas on ­production credits, a litany of big names give their ideas (Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Combs) but ­Jenkins also includes those designers and shopkeepers from the streets. A must for hip-hop completists or students of fashion. 3 stars


Now showing in Light House

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