One, a thriller, was a bit of a sleeper, though the venerable Roger Ebert gave it three stars. The other, a coming of age/love story, is a bit under the popular radar, but, deservedly, up for awards on both sides of the pond.
The House on Carroll Street and Brooklyn both take place, in whole or in part, in New York. Both are rich in setting, mood and nuance, often evoking more in the wordless moments than in the dialogue, especially The House on Carroll Street. Both movies delve into issues of their day, though, in my view, issues not all that different from many issues of these days we live in.
The House on Carroll Street begins with Emily Crane refusing to name names when summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. She is subsequently fired from her job and takes on a part-time position reading to an elderly woman on a quiet street. Curious about an open window and voices across the street from the elderly woman’s dwelling, Emily snoops from the hidden garden as she leaves her reading. Later, she bumps into one of the men she saw in the window. The other she recognizes as the government official who questioned her at the hearing. So begins a quietly menacing thriller, ala Alfred Hitchcock, with Emily an unlikely heroine in a world where there are still Nazis.
Brooklyn is based on the book written by Colm Tóibín. I enjoyed the movie so much that I now have the novel teetering on my ever-present TBR pile. The movie came to my attention through recommendations, trusted blog reviews, and my own instinct that Brooklyn was a movie I wanted to see. This is a simple story, a slow journey through the agony of leaving what was once home, the long ocean voyage in cramped quarters, the bustle of New York City with new sights and smells and foreign faces. It is of life in a boardinghouse, full of all the comes when woman board together. It is the story of adapting to a new country, to working, attending night school to become a bookkeeper (and being the only female in the class). It is about being a young Irish lass, as Eilis Lacey is, and meeting a young Italian boy at a dance, falling in love, meeting his big family, coming of age, and of choices we make, their consequences and their rewards.
Both films are set in the early ’50s. Both are rich in costuming, details, nuances and the unspoken words as much as the spoken. Both evoke an era we sometimes look back to as simpler times, which were, in truth, often fraught with underlying changes and unspoken fear. Both have an unseen character of menace. The menace in one is McCarthyism, the other small-mindedness.
I would like to recommend both movies if you have not seen them. If you have, I welcome your thoughts. Is there a movie set in the ’50s that you especially enjoy?