This is the premise of Ted Geoghegan’s latest movie. “Brooklyn 45” takes place entirely on one set, the front room of the brownstone, and it unfolds in real time like a play. Billed as a supernatural horror film, “Brooklyn 45,” which Geoghegan also wrote, is more than a strict genre label would suggest. Ghosts and spirits appear, and weird things are indeed summoned, but “Brooklyn 45” is really a meditation on grief and the unfinished business of war as experienced by a group who struggle with adjusting to peacetime. After facing the horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe, how are they supposed to just go back to normal life? After four years of viewing all Germans as Nazis, it’s hard to just turn that off.
Marla (Anne Ramsay), injured by a bomb explosion, was one of the military’s most feared and respected Nazi interrogators. She just married Bob (Ron E. Rains), a meek-and-mild man sneered at by the rest of the men for his lack of combat experience. Archie (Jeremy Holm) is an intimidating tree trunk of a man, a war hero whose reputation is tarnished by accusations of a terrible and unforgivable war crime. There will be a trial. The ends don’t justify the means, after all. Archie is gay, and openly so, tolerating the ribbing he gets about it from his friend Paul (Ezra Buzzington), an upright military commander, still in uniform, and still suspicious of all “Krauts.” Nazis lurk in every corner, and Paul has suspicions about the German-American woman who runs a grocery store down the street (Kristina Klebe). Apparently, Clive’s dead wife shared Paul’s paranoia and spent her final days obsessed with Nazi spies hiding out in America, hiding out on her block.
Geoghegan and his ensemble cast dig into all this thorny complexity instead of running away from it or ironing it out into a black-and-white binary. Each character is wracked by moral ambiguity and ethical compromise to some degree. Marla is now a happy wife, yet the ghost of her interrogator self—she freely used torture—hovers around her. Archie maintains his upright hero persona, but his reputation has taken a hit. He’s ashamed of himself and can’t admit it. During the war, Paul’s constant rage had a socially acceptable space to express itself. Now, without an enemy, he is lost. And Clive is a wreck. Larry Fessenden has been doing excellent, nuanced work for years (I loved him in the recent “Jakob’s Wife”), and his torment in “Brooklyn 45” is almost difficult to watch. Drowning in alcohol, ravaged by grief, he is the center around which the rest swirl with worry, irritation, and terror at what his séance has unleashed.