If the story of Irish emigration was a novel, New York would be the setting for large swathes.
While the latter chapters may relocate to Australia, for over 200 years the Irish crossed the Atlantic in their millions, spreading all across the eastern seaboard.
In New York in particular, the Irish became fused into the very fabric of the place, pulling generation after generation behind them on boats and later on Aer Lingus flights out of Dublin and Shannon.
The well of able young men and women has now all but dried up. The boom of the Celtic tiger, tightening immigration controls post 9-11 and the cost of living has left New York less desirable and sent many back across the Atlantic.
Some are still there though, struggling with life in a city that doesn’t need them any more. ‘Emerald City’ is their story.
It’s also Colin Broderick’s own story.
A writer at heart, the Altamuskin native has spent a good deal of his life in New York, working on construction sites trying to make ends meet.
He describes the characters within as ‘the greatest in the world’, and over the years the seeds were sown for his debut feature film.
His intimate knowledge of this world and the characters make for an authentic portrayal. There are no phoney ‘Oirish’ accents here.
Broderick has in fact gone further than producing an authentic representation, he has actually put them in front of the camera.
His own brother Brendan, who also lives in New York, is a case point.
Making his screen debut, the foul-mouthed Tyrone man’s scene-stealing deadpan contributions offer much of the comic relief in the film.
Boxer turned aspiring actor John Duddy is another work site veteran, who grants yet more authenticity.
Their rough round-the-edge contributions are rounded off by the polished performances of seasoned Irish actors John Keating and John McConnell, who give great weight to tragi-comic potency of Emerald City.
Colin Broderick also takes a leading role, pouring into the semi-autobiographical character of ‘Colly’ his own experience of alcoholism and struggle as an aspiring writer.
Struggle is the ultimate theme of Emerald City, from John Keating’s struggle to keep his construction firm and family life afloat to John McConnell’s struggle with grief and desperate loneliness, everyone is struggling with their own demons.
Colly’s path to redemption begins with the chance encounter with Ophelia, aptly played by his own wife Rachael.
He offers the in-crisis yoga teacher a life raft, yet within their burgeoning relationship, he finds the equilibrium that could just save him.
Meanwhile, a closely guarded stage play penned by Colly has by chance fallen into the hands of a producer, opening a new door for the writer.
At first fearful, Colly prepares for a major step in a new direction that could could prove the catalyst to redeem his own band of struggling compadres.
But life is never that simple.
Emerald City is certainly a must-see for the thousands of Irish on both sides of the Atlantic who will intimately understand the life portrayed on
It’s a timely reminder of Ireland’s modern emigration story, but it stands on its own feet as a heartfelt story of individual struggle and ultimately redemption.
Beautifully shot, it jabs along with drama and humour, before delivering a haymaker of emotion to floor the audience.
Posted: 7:40 pm April 16, 2017
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