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#TIFF19 Review: Motherless Brooklyn (Special Presentations)

September 14, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Set in the 1950s in New York, Motherless Brooklyn follows Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a private detective with Tourette syndrome. He twitches and tics, his mind obsessing over certain phrases and making him repeat them, but he also has an incredible ability to retain information and never forgets anything, which makes him a brilliant gumshoe.

After witnessing his partner and mentor Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) get killed, Lionel becomes obsessed with unraveling the mystery that Frank was trying to solve when he got shot. This sucks him into a seedy New York underworld involving those in power and the people trying to hold them to account, including an activist (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is protesting the city’s forced relocation of poor African-American communities, and a crooked politician (Alec Baldwin).

Directed by Norton, who also delivers a compelling and touching performance in the lead, Motherless Brooklyn is a hardboiled detective movie in the most classic sense, rich with crackling dialogue and a tangled web of a plot dealing with political corruption. Adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s bestselling novel of the same name, Norton’s screenplay touches upon racial discrimination and housing inequality, themes that still feel relevant. Working with cinematographer Dick Pope to give the film noirish look, Norton has crafted a completely pleasurable cinematic landscape to get lost in for a couple of hours, and fans of classic detective movies are sure to find a lot to like here. I really enjoyed it.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn

Public Screenings:

Tuesday, September 10th – 9:15 PM at Princess of Wales

Wednesday, September 11th – 1:30 PM at Princess of Wales

Sunday, September 15th – 9:00 AM at Scotiabank Theatre

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