Emerald City from writer and director Colin Broderick is a roguish drama on the importance of friendship, connections and finding one’s sense of self. Nestled in among the quieter suburbs of New York, the story follows a group of friends and colleagues, Irish construction workers, as they deal with their own personal issues and struggles in a city once built on the labour of their forebears.
This cluster of misfits spend their days drinking, working and arguing their way through life and each of them appears to have their own burdens to deal with. At first glance they appear to be rudimentary, one dimensional characters, little more than stereotypes of Irish culture abroad. However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that each of these men are fighting their own personal demons, battles that we can all identify with, and there’s a depth of humanity to how each man chooses to face – or hide from – his problems.
The script from Broderick is uniquely Irish, at once nailing the camaraderie of a group of friends who trade foul-mouthed tirades all day long but still hang out once the working day has ended. Their vulgar banter, heavy drinking and propensity for casual violence masks wounded souls; men whose facade rarely crumbles in public but whose sadness and vulnerability are by-products of going unnoticed in a city where they don’t fully belong. It’s a deft piece of skill to draw emotion from a group of protagonists like this but one that is accomplished all the same, and beautifully so.
Though each individual is given their own strand of a story to navigate, it is Colin Broderick’s character, Colly, whose arc is most fulfilling. He is the poetic heart of the group, a carpenter with aspirations of being a playwright and someone seeking a connection in a city he appears to feel lost in. It is not until he meets Ophelia that the pieces of the movie start to properly fall into place, and their relationship is as tender, sweet and nuanced as it is skilfully borne out onscreen by both actors.
Emerald City is a surprisingly heartfelt and vulnerable story of brotherhood and the bonds that keep people together. It’s a story of identity and love, of loss and redemption, balancing wry bawdy humour with a wonderful amount of warmth and filled with fine performances from all involved.