Brooklyn is a classic, beautifully shot romance that is one of the season’s true crowd-pleasing features. It doesn’t contain a lot of surprises or stakes, but commands attention with well-drawn, likable characters, a convincing sense of time and place, and a fantastic lead performance from Saoirse Ronan. It’s also a moving exploration of what it’s like to leave behind everything that’s familiar and loving in life to start anew.
Set in 1952, Ronan plays Eilis, an Irish immigrant on her way to New York in search of better possibilities. A job and lodging has been arranged for her by an Irish-American priest. After a wobbly ride across the Atlantic, Eilis arrives in Brooklyn to immediate homesickness. It subsides quickly after she meets Tony (Cohen), an Italian plumber who seems like her perfect match. Their relationship is put to the test, however, when tragedy strikes and Eilis must return to Ireland.
Director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby (adapting from the novel of the same name by Colm Toibin) keep the mood gentle and whimsical, always keeping the melodrama in check. The film has a leisurely feel to it that’s refreshing, accented by the stunning color palette that Crowley utilizes to reflect Eilis’s emotional state. Crowley’s work behind the lens adds an immense amount of visual appeal and always feels authentic to the time. As much of a treat as Brooklyn is on the eyes, the core story plays out exactly as expected and at times strains its otherwise menial conflicts.
The star here is Saoirse Ronan in a mature, warm, and multi-layered performance. Convincingly innocent and never devoid of a sense of humor, Ronan owns every frame in a breakout role. She’s surround by fine supporting actors, namely Emory Cohen as Tony and Julie Walters as the boarding house leader. Cohen is effortlessly kind without coming across as cheesy. Walters provides the bulk of the comedic relief with her insistence on remaining proper and never speaking ill of anything about the Lord, even his complexion.
Brooklyn is a fine serving of comfort food, innocent and successfully operating at a deeper level when exploring the difficulties of leaving home for a foreign land. At the forefront is a fantastic turn from Saoirse Ronan, who elevates what could have easily been a by-the-numbers period romance in lesser hands. Well-acted, gorgeously filmed, and warm to the core, Brooklyn is a fine romance.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Length: 111 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.
Theatrical Release: January 26, 2015 (Sundance Film Festival) / November 4, 2015 (Limited)
Directed by: John Crowley
Written by: Nick Hornby. Based upon the novel of the same name by Colm Toibin.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Eileen O’Higgins, Julie Walters