After reading the book Motherless Brooklyn written by the American author Jonathan Lethem, I have come across the idea of making a movie adaptation of it. As a filmmaker, I have chosen few key scenes in the entire novel that must absolutely be included in the movie. Those scenes are important because they provide us a better understanding of Lionel’s character and the way he perceive the world around him. HE CHANGES: BEFORE HE DEPENDED ON A LOT OF PEOPLE. AT THE END HE REALIZES HE HAS TO CARE ABOUT HIMSELF MORE THAN OTHER PEOPLE. I believe that those scenes will indeed make the movie stand out from any other movies of the same genre that have been previously made.

Jeff’s notes: show us a few scenes of him and his evolution

a scene of him dependent

a couple of scenes of him becoming more independent

ending: how is he different?

Look for the way he acts, thinks, and talks, interacts with other people, etc.


Minna painfully chilling in the backseat

In this scene, after several minutes of searching, Lionel finds Frank who is half covered in blood inside a dumpster. Gilbert and Lionel quickly bring back their boss in the backseat of the car, ready to go to the nearest hospital. Although they are in a pretty intense and dramatic situation where it is described that Minna is injured and loosing a large amount of blood, he asks Lionel to tell him a joke. It is really interesting how the wounded-man still tries to appeal strong in front of them even in his current state. I believe that Minna is trying to lighten the mood in order to not make Lionel and Gilbert worry about him. In addition, the younger brother’s loyalty and respect towards his older brother Gerard is shown here when Gilbert asks Minna: “Before we get in the emergency room, you want to tell us who did this to you, Frank?” (p. 27). The silent response from Minna is very painful to watch considering that he himself knows who is responsible for what happened .


Lionel first interaction with Matricardi and Rockaforte

The flashback scene from Lionel childhood is very interesting. The scene starts of by the encounter of the Minna’s Boys and the clients taking place supposedly at Matricardi “Mother’s parlor” (p.63). This scene introduces the different main characters and the role they will play in the novel. On one side of the room, we are able to visualize the young boys dressed poorly standing slightly behind Minna’s back and on the other side, the two mature well-dressed Italian mans comfortably sitting in their luxurious living room. The dialogue exchanged between them reflects the different amount of power each character hold, from Minna towards the Italian men and the naïve boys toward Minna. In this passage, Lionel senses the overflow of power coming from the clients. He notices it by the drastic changes in Minna’s odd behaviour.  The protagonist mentions at that moment that, “Minna had never required politeness…We were used to sauntering with him through the neighborhood, riffing, honing our insults” and that, “[they] felt the change in Minna, the fear and tension”(p. 61). Lionel thoughts reveal that he has always been very good at analyzing and observing situations. It is also essential to highlight one of the strange comment made by Rockaforte when he says “Nobody else will be permitted to take pleasure in that garbage,”(Lethem 64) followed by: ” We can give it to your orphans, or a fire can be created with a can of gasoline—it would make not different.”(p. 64) Those words said by Rockaforte illustrate perfectly how Lionel thinks the four boys are perceived by their own society.


Essrog Calling Essrog, Essrog listens

The scene of Lionel phone calls to Murray Essrog on page 261 is crucial in my opinion because it shows the constant urge of Lionel character trying to find who he really is and where he belongs. When the protagonist says that, “I was still a kid to him, just as to me he’d been an old man since the first time I called him” (p. 261), this may also be interpreted as whatever he does or try to do, he will always be seen in a certain way and it will not change not matter how much time passes.



Gun point

In this scene, Lionel and Julia are standing at “the rail at the sea edge of the lighthouse tower”(p. 292) facing out. The setting illustrates right away that a powerful scene is about to come. “The wind was still strong,”(p. 292) also refers to what happened a little earlier between Lionel’s death battles with Ullman. Even if there isn’t any imminent danger or any need to be fearful, the thought of it still remains in his mind. They are about to elucidate what really happen and the cause of Minna’s death. At this moment, Lionel already know that Gerard killed his own brother therefore he learns more about Julia’s character. At first, the main character wanted to help Julia but he realizes that, “Julia had always been the [most] hardest-boiled”(p. 303) and the “[most] unhappiest person [he] ever met.” (p.303) He understands at this particular moment that is time for him to move on.  Lionel throws away all the items that are related to Minna far away in the ocean and decides to return back to Brooklyn, leaving everything behind him. This action is significant because it shows that he has finally accepted and overcome the death of his boss Frank Minna. He realizes that he has wasted a lot of time and energy over it. The word “Barnebaileyscrewjuliaminna” is his final statement over this subject.

Works Cited :

Lethem, Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn. Vintage Books, 1999.

Amanda Ging Sze Chan


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