We caught Brooklyn 45 at this year’s SXSW (2023) . Five friends and military veterans gather for cocktails in the parlor of a Brooklyn brownstone on an anniversary of sorts on a Friday in December 1945. Called to support their troubled host, they’re asked to participate in a séance. Supernaturally locked inside this room with only their consciences and a terrifying decision to make, what will these war heroes and seemingly good people do to escape? For those of us accustomed to séances gone wild, it was no surprise where this evening was headed.
Brooklyn 45 is written and directed by Ted Geoghegan, penned with assistance from his late father, a disabled Air Force veteran and history teacher. Lt. Col Clive Hockstatter’s (Larry Fessenden of Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here) cry for help comes in the form of a reunion of friends. He’s hoping a call to the spirit world will bring comfort and answers. Majors Stanton and DiFranco (Jeremy Holm and Ezra Buzzington) and Mrs. & Mr. Marla and Bob Sheridan (Anne Ramsay and Ron E. Rains) round out this fantastic ensemble cast. With surprise guest Hildegard Baumann (Kristina Klebe), it almost sounds like we are putting on a Clue escape room, except we have no whodunnit with what and where scenario but a whowilldoit with what in the parlor room?
Fear, guilt, and anger amass among our trapped friends, and tensions quickly build. They’re all learning more about each other and must now learn to believe and trust one another if they want to escape this hellish soirée. Secrets abound and the horrors of war amongst those tasked to do the dirty work are the topics of conversation. Conspiracy and paranoia are expected once fear grips the most hardened of veterans. After all, doesn’t war play on our fears of the unknown and who might be living next door?
How is it 2023, and yet this film set in 1945 resonates so personally for me? Have we always been so easily swayed against our neighbors that it’s no longer shocking and just part of the ordinary and everyday? We do need this reminder because it wasn’t long ago, and yet it’s still happening. We pit one group of people against another that we deem to be the latest “weaker” or “different” group as the easy target. Even amongst this group of real patriots, Americans, and veterans, one is deemed less because he didn’t fight in the trenches and another because he is gay. Who is most vulnerable? Who can we take from to ensure ours isn’t taken? Who can we feed to the monsters to ensure our own safety?
The supernatural may be portrayed with an almost comical angle, throwing our characters right in the deep end, but isn’t the belief in spirits supposed to be absurd to 5 serious, older adults? A lot is done with a little, and the pacing is set up perfectly to make it feel like we are watching in real-time. Jeremy Holm and Kristina Klebe were amazing, and I felt so much for their characters on a personal level. I am so glad that I found this gem and could let my imagination run away with me. Geoghegan did a stellar job leaving much to our interpretation. I love that with Brooklyn 45 I could take away what I choose and reach out to others for meaningful conversation about a film with a séance.