How it’s New York: A New York story shot on location in the Big Apple.
How it’s Irish: Written and directed by a native of Tyrone, and featuring an ensemble of Irish actors.
For an Irish emigrant in the latter half of the 20th century, there was a supposed ‘holy triumvirate’ of occupations that one could, not so much enjoy, but experience. Three jobs the weary long-term ‘visitor’ has, over generations, been either, welcome to try his hand at, or been firmly nudged towards, due to a lack of opportunities elsewhere. There’s the pulling of pints and there’s the moving of furniture. Then there is the knocking down, and building up of; walls, ceilings, floors, apartments, skyscrapers, neighborhoods and entire cities. See, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve torn things down, and built them up. Whether it be buildings and businesses, or friendships and families. We’ve held them together, and torn them apart, for over 200 years in this town. This home from home, this Big Apple, this ‘Emerald City’.
Writer/director Colin Broderick, one of those unique breeds, a County Tyrone-born and reared New Yorker, has set out to tell a tale or three, involving several memorable characters from this, his first movie, detailing the lives and loves of an ageing Irish construction crew. ‘Emerald City’ expertly weaves a number of storylines together into a colorful tapestry, one that is rich in character and colorful of language. It is as much a tribute to the immigrants who came and stayed and those who never made it back, as it is to Broderick’s beloved New York. This is where he, before honing his skills as an acclaimed writer of two biographical works (‘Orangutan’ and ‘That’s That’) and a number of plays, worked in the construction industry, where ideas for many of his characters no doubt, first developed.
There’s Pat Mack, wonderfully portrayed by John Keating. We’ve all worked for one. That is, if we are all Irish immigrants, making a living via New York’s construction business. The Pat Macks, sharing shadiness, dealing dodginess and conning customers, all the while maintaining that well-earned reputation as a rebellious rogue, a cartoonish character, a lovable lunatic even, they are everywhere. It is as much due to Broderick’s direction, as it is to Keating’s wonderful facial expressions, body language and colorful all-round portrayal of Mack, that drives this story forward, leaving us to wonder at times, whether this is to be a dark comedy, a flawed love story or a dramatic tour-de-force. In truth, it has elements of all three, and more.
Working for Mack, is Podge, a washed-up former boxer, who may not have left all his aggression in the ring, played by John Duddy. Fresh from his role in Robert De Niro’s boxing flick, ‘Hands of Stone’, Duddy’s charisma not only adds to the romantic storyline, as Podge chases Mary from Derry (played by Duddy’s real-life wife Grainne Duddy), but has his own comedic moments, playing off Keating’s role, and those played by Brendy Broderick (Jerome) and John McConnell (Richard, not Dick) brilliantly. It is Jerome, the foul-mouthed, occasionally vegetarian cynic and Richard, the honest, reliable, hard-working bastion of decency, that stands out among his colleagues as a church-going loner, and avoiding the demon drink that has ravaged the souls of his workmates, that continually steal the scenes that they are in.
Then there’s Collie, played by Broderick himself, we’d call him the everyman character, but really, he’s anything but. He’s the sensitive soul, a rough diamond in this emerald city, almost corrupted and nearly defeated by a lifestyle he did not choose, where he knocks down walls, battles his demons and harbors fantasies of being a writer. While his colleagues go drinking after a day’s work, he puts down his toolbelt, and takes up his pen. It’s a pastime, a dream, that is accepted by his pals, with even Mack referring to him, almost respectfully, as ‘Hollywood’. There’s a Collie in many an Irish construction crew. He’s often the guy in his own little world, pondering as he paints, dreaming while drilling and creative during construction.
With a number of sub-plots, involving an incredible supporting cast of female characters, played by Rachel Broderick, Eden Brolin, Sue Costello, Bronagh Harmon, Grainne Duddy and Jacqueline Healy, ‘Emerald City’ is one of those standout Irish movies, at times tearful, occasionally thought-provoking, while all the while, maintaining that level of humor to prevent it from being pigeonholed into any one category. With a performance at the Manhattan Film Festival scheduled for later this month, the film’s cast and crew will then head to to Chicago in the fall, for that city’s Irish Film Festival, after already selling out several performances in London, Derry, Belfast and New York.
‘Emerald City’, with its intricate storylines, tailor-made soundtrack (featuring Brendan O’Shea, Jenna Nicholls, Pierce Turner, Mic Christopher and Niall Connolly) and Eric Branco‘s stunning cinematography, which practically elevates New York’s streets and bridges to supporting roles, just might be the independent movie that this generation of moviegoers, emigrants and yes, construction workers, has been waiting for.