Tricia Youlden

Brooklyn ★★★★ M

Brooklyn tells the story of a young Irish immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn. Nick Hornby’s screenplay deftly reproduces the characters, events and the quintessential spirit of Colm Toibin’s engaging novel.

Unable to find employment in Ireland, Eilis Lacey (Saouirse Ronan) is sponsored by Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), an old friend of her sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), to sail for America where he has secured Eilis a job and lodging in his Brooklyn parish.

There, Eilis lives in the boarding house run by eccentric Mrs Keogh (Julie Walters), whose wry pronouncements at the dinner table are most amusing. Despite her initial homesickness, Eilis is soon confidently making a new life for herself in Brooklyn.

The priest also provides care and food to many elderly Irishmen who helped build the tunnels and bridges in New York but whose skills are no longer needed. On Christmas Day, Father Flood and his helpers, Eilis included, serve them a hot turkey dinner in the parish hall. One of the most poignant moments in the film is when one of them (Larla O Lionaird) starts singing a traditional Gaelic song as his compatriots quietly sip their whiskey and remember Ireland.

In letters to Rose, Eilis confides details of her romance with Italian plumber, Tony Fiorelli (Emory Cohen). When a family tragedy prompts her to return home, Eilis finds herself being manipulated into a relationship with wealthy Jim Farrelly (Domhnall Gleeson) and also offered a job. Torn between staying in Ireland or returning to Brooklyn, Eilis must make a life-defining decision.

Brooklyn looks beautiful. The production values are top-notch. The film was nominated for best picture and best actress at the Academy Awards.

Looking for Grace ★★★★ M

Radha Mitchell and Richard Roxburgh fumble with communication in Looking for Grace

Shot in Western Australia, Looking for Grace takes us on a road trip through the W.A. wheatbelt as Dan (Richard Roxburgh) and Denise (Radha Mitchell) track down their 16-year-old-daughter, Grace (Odessa Young), who has absconded with a considerable amount of her parents’ money. Assisting them is an elderly detective, Tom (Terry Norris), who counsels all and sundry enroute.

That “life doesn’t go in straight lines”, as Tom says, is clearly illustrated by the interweaving stories of the various characters in the film. They are all fallible people and their lives are not romanticised by writer-director Sue Brooks, who allows cinematographer Katie Milwright and a talented cast to show us what the characters have so much difficulty in verbally communicating to each other.

Composer Elizabeth Drake deserves recognition for her gorgeous score, Clayton Jauncey for his production designer and Peter Carrodus for his editing skills.

If you have not yet seen Looking for Grace, I urge you to do so.

Sherpa ★★★★★ M

This powerful documentary is about the aftermath of the catastrophic avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas on Mount Everest on April 18, 2014.

Intrigued by an unexpected and shocking brawl the previous year between climbers and Sherpas, Australian writer/director Jennifer Peedom set out to cover the 2014 climbing season. Peedom had begun filming 12 days before the avalanche. Of particular interest was the head Sherpa, Phurba Tashii, for whom this would be a record-breaking 22nd ascent to the summit.

For years, the Nepalese government and tour operators have been making huge profits from what mountaineering writer, Ed Douglas, describes as “the annual Everest circus”. Younger Sherpas, however, are now better educated and less willing to repeatedly risk their lives crossing the treacherous Khumbu icefall just because 600-odd climbers annually pay thousands to “conquer” Everest.

After the avalanche, the Sherpas refuse to continue the ascent. They stand up for their rights and the government accedes to their terms.

Sixty-one years after Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest with Edmund Hillary, the Sherpas are now in control of climbing their mountain. As Norgay’s son comments, Sherpas have chosen respect over money.

One suspects that the less than flattering view this superlative documentary presents of westerners might explain why Sherpa was not nominated for an Academy Award.

Trumbo ★★★★ M

In the anti-communist hysteria that engulfed the motion picture industry in the aftermath of World War II, acclaimed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), is one of the “Hollywood Ten” subpoenaed to testify before Congress for the alleged propaganda in their films. Outspokenly pro-union, Trumbo is a member of the Communist Party of the United States.

After serving a prison sentence, Trumbo finds himself blacklisted by the big studios. In order to support his family, he begins writing screenplays for the low-budget King Brothers Productions under various pseudonyms. With the help of his family, alcohol, tobacco and Benzedrine, he churns out screenplays for the Kings. Talent is hard to disguise, however, and his original screenplay for The Brave One wins a second Academy Award that Trumbo can’t openly claim. The first was for Roman Holiday, the credit for which he gave to his friend Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk), in exchange for a share of the profits.

While it is common knowledge that Dalton Trumbo has been writing pseudonymously for the previous 10 years, it is only in 1960 that Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) and Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) defy the rightwing establishment and credit Trumbo as screenwriter for Spartacus and Exodus respectively.

Although John McNamara’s adaptation of Bruce Alexander Cook’s biography of Dalton Trumbo was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay by the Writers Guild of America it has also been criticised for leftwing bias. Life imitates art!

Cranston and Mirren have been nominated for various awards and the Trumbo cast was nominated for Best Acting Ensemble in the Critics’ Choice Awards. Enough said!

Spotlight ★★★★★ MA

It is only this century that the extent of the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of child abuse has begun to be revealed. Written and directed by Tom McCarthy, Spotlight brings us the story of the team of Boston Globe reporters, whose investigation uncovered the scandalous history of victims abandoned by the church in order to protect their own.

While McCarthy’s film is a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church it is principally a tribute to editor Marty Baron (played by Liev Shreiber) and reporters Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and their colleagues at the Globe whose investigation set in train an ongoing worldwide investigation of child abuse.

When Marty Baron (played by Liev Shreiber) is appointed editor of the Globe, he directs the Spotlight team, reporters Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and others, to investigate a story about an alleged paedophile priest.

They discover this was not one localised instance but that in the Boston archdiocese alone the Catholic Church has been protecting up to 70 paedophile priests over the past 40 years, moving them around from parish to parish while discrediting the psychiatrists, counsellors, lawyers, and anyone else who dares to speak out on behalf of the victims.

In Boston, the Catholic Church led by Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) is extremely influential; 53 per cent of the Globe’s readers are Catholic; Robinson himself is part of the Catholic old boy network. Nevertheless Robinson and his team go after the system that clearly goes all the way to the Vatican.

Of great assistance is tenacious attorney, Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), who tells them how the Church has been dealing with victims through private mediation, not court, leaving no paper trail.

Subsequent to the publication of the story in 2002 Cardinal Law was moved from Boston to — you guessed it! — the Vatican. There he still leads a privileged life. The Spotlight team won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

At the 2016 Academy Awards Spotlight was deservedly nominated for best picture, best original screenplay, best editing, best supporting actor (Ruffalo) and best supporting actress (McAdams).

Tricia Youlden teaches Drama at Willoughby Girls High School.

Film ticket winners

The 10 winners of double passes to Palace Films’ The Belier Family, announced in our December issue were:

Maurice Ian Lowcock, East Gosford; Lirria Latimore, Bundeena; Tom Pastor, Camden; Joanne Sandra Russo, Kurrajong Heights; Corazon Marin, North St Marys; Jim Miles, Kellyville; Cheryle Chilcott, Harrington Park; Luigi Serra, Blacktown; Margolit Phillips, Kingsgrove; Gail Horowitz, Emu Plains.

Congratulations, members, we hope you enjoyed the film!