Directed by John Crowley.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Enory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Michael Zegen, and Jim Broadbent.
In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.
Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) has nothing positive going for her at home in Ireland besides a loving family, so thanks to some strings pulled by her sister and a priest who is a friend of the family living in America, she departs for Brooklyn so the bright-minded young woman could potentially build a better life for herself and one day return home able to provide support. She is given a job at a department store along with a room at a boarding home, but it doesn’t take long before loneliness and isolation from her mother and sister begin giving her a terrible case of homesickness.
Now here is a fun fact, Brooklyn star Saoirse Ronan, although Irish tongued, was born in New York City and relocated back to Ireland at the age of three. I don’t know the exact reason why, but it’s evident that some of her life experiences are what helped get her cast in a movie about journeying to live in another country. The other reason of course being her remarkable talent.
From an acting standpoint, that is one of many of the aspects Ronan pulls off so well; the uneasy, terrifying feeling of detaching herself from everyone she loves and an entire country she is culturally familiar with, to start anew alone in a land where pretty much everything is foreign to her senses. Her performance is incredibly earnest, whether she is clearly depressed at work dealing with her no-nonsense curmudgeon of a boss (sometimes visibly crying and unable to properly deal with customers), to dealing with the other boarding home residents. They aren’t bad people, but there isn’t much of a connection. If anything, it’s simply a just and fair living environment despite the crowded nature of the household.
Nationally, that overbearing homesickness and loneliness slowly drift away once she is enrolled in bookkeeping classes (Eilis’ dream is to one day be an accountant), but more importantly, when she meets a good-intended Italian plumber named Tony (Emory Cohen). Ronan and Cohen also have dynamite chemistry together that accomplishes what most romances fail miserably at; strong writing and character definition that leads viewers to believe these two are right for each other and could realistically have fallen in love.
This is largely in part due to a sharp script by Nick Hornby that injects an unexpected but pleasantly welcome amount of comedy, playing off a range of different subjects, whether it is Eilis not being accustomed to properly eating Italian dishes such as spaghetti, Tony’s young child brother that jokingly creates some awkward moments when she is allowed to meet the family, and in general, smartly implemented dry comedy. The dialogue exchanges between the two feel fluid and natural; conversations that you could realistically see two people falling in love having.
The fact that a large portion of the movie is spent building a relationship and connecting their personalities make viewers want to see them stay together, get married, succeed on their lofty ambitious endeavors, and more. Yes, we have seen this story countless times before, but the execution here is on-point and will warm your heart while simultaneously making you chuckle frequently.
Brooklyn does falter a bit when Eilis is forced to return home due to unforeseen circumstances, most notably because the lighthearted tone of the film transitions into familiar drama. A number of entertaining supporting characters also unceremoniously get dropped from the narrative due to the shift in scenery, which is a shame because many of them are laugh out loud funny and even more intriguingly stick out as interesting.
There is a heart-to-heart conversation with Eilis and one of her boarding home acquaintances regarding Eilis inquiring as to why she visits weekly dances and if she would ever get remarried, where the woman reveals a cold hard truth that it would be justified to marry an awful human being of a man just to get away from this poor lifestyle and build a better life. It’s a moment that perfectly summarizes Brooklyn; everyone in this movie is likable and doing whatever is necessary to get by, ultimately in hopes of finding absolutely anything better.
Coming back around to my original point however, these subplots that float around alongside the primary conflict during the first half of the film completely disappear and are never brought up again. Not to beat a dead horse, but it is again unfortunate because so many of the characters are wonderfully brought to life. Boarding home landlord (Julie Walters) has some absolutely hysterical sarcastic remarks to many of the girls that cannot be described as anything other than bringing down the house of the 51st First Chicago International Film Festival screening.
What I will say is that even though Brooklyn ditches a lot of the elements that make it so charming for a more emotional second half retreading basic genre material, it never becomes overly sentimental and melodramatic, inducing nausea. If anything, it just shifts into extremely conventional territory that is still breathtakingly engaging. Eilis’ dilemma is still riveting even if the ending is somewhat predictable.
Thanks to an Oscar worthy performance by Saoirse Ronan (also surrounded by heaps of supporting acting talent), gorgeous production design making both 1950s Ireland and Brooklyn pop off the screen with heavily detailed environments and costume design, and characters easy to root for in doing the right thing, Brooklyn will elicit laughter, tears, and fiery joy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook