- on Friday, 27 November 2015 15:29
- by Frank Wilkins
Screenwriter Nick Hornby’s Brooklyn is, on its surface, the epitome of a classic immigrant’s tale. The cinematic roadside is littered with wonderful stories of desperate yet brave young men who leave their homes and families behind to seek a better life in America. But beneath its luxurious golden-hued veneer provided by cinematographer Yves Bélanger, Brooklyn is a different tale. One not very often told. It’s from the persepective of a quiet, unpretentious young woman named Eilis (pronounced Ay-lish) (Saoirse Ronan) who emigrates alone from her hometown of Enniscorthy, Ireland to Brooklyn, New York.
Hornby (Wild, An Education) adapts his story from Colm Tóibin’s hugely popular 2009 novel, while John Crowley directs the Irish immigration story that takes place in the immediate post-WWII years as millions of Europeans make their way to America. Eilis, at the urging of her sister and aided by the helpful hand of an Irish-American priest in New York, reluctantly boards a passenger ship, fights off seasickness, and eventually finds herself in a Brooklyn boarding house.
As expected, Eilis encounters near-crushing homesickness as she tries to please her pretentious boss (Mad Men’s Jessica Paré) and snooty landlady (Julie Walters) while holding down a department store job and attending bookkeeping night school. Eilis eventually meets a nice young man named Tony (Emory Cohen) with whom she falls in love.
Hornby’s story works largely due to Ronan’s brilliant translation of Eilis’s wide-eyed innocence. She’s beautiful, a bit cautious and shy, but somehow still manages a heavy dose of courage and determination. There’s a lot of wonderful characterization that relies solely on facial expression and physical mannerism. Crowley smartly keeps his camera tight on Ronan to pick up her subtle yet powerfully expressive face that says more than any dialogue. This isn’t Ronan’s breakout role as that fell to her Oscar-nominated turn as 13-year-old Briony in 2007’s Atonement, but this might just be strong enough to garner the Academy’s attention yet again. She’s that good here.
Eilis’s mental state turns a corner for the better once she falls in love with Tony who persistently pursues the object of his affection and brings her home to meet his stereotypically rambunctious Italian family. But it’s James DiGiacomo who steals the show as Tony’s precocious little brother, Frankie. Eilis and Tony get married shortly before she is called back to Ireland to attend a family emergency.
Once back in Ireland, Eilis discovers that perhaps things in her hometown weren’t quite as bad as she once remembered, especially now that the gentlemanly, blazer-attired rugby player Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) has come calling. Is her future in tiny Enniscorthy where her roots run deep, or is it in Brooklyn with Tony who represents the future she had once envisioned? The love triangle is breathtakingly poignant in our fluid modern world, while also harboring tried-and-true literary themes of the time-honored classics.
Brooklyn is not only significant as a smartly written piece of social and historical commentary, but it’s also just a great, well-crafted movie that warms the heart and is a lot of fun to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually becomes required Filmmaking-101 viewing for film schools around the world. The directing, writing, and acting on display are some of the year’s best.
MPAA Rating: PG - 13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.
Runtime: 111 mins
Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson
Tagline: Two countries, two loves, one heart....
Memorable Movie Quote: "Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will pass."
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/brooklyn/
Release Date: November 21, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available
Synopsis: Brooklyn tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother's home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
No details available.