Brooklyn

 photo brooklyn_ver3_zpsdyjwt9ge.jpg photo starrating-5stars.jpgMovies concerning the cultural assimilation of an immigrant into American life are rare. Nostalgic period pieces about the experience are rarer still. Into this atmosphere comes Brooklyn. In stark contrast to the current zeitgeist, it’s like a invigorating breath of positive air. That’s not to say her new country is a bed of roses. However opportunity does exist for those with an indomitable resolve. The drama is a paean to the spirit of new beginnings, a fresh identity in a foreign land. It’s unapologetically old fashioned and I mean that in the most grand, romantic, heartwarming sense of the word.

On paper, the plot is perfectly ordinary. Eilis Lacey is around 20 years old and living in 1950s Ireland. Things could be better as her life has become stagnant. She journeys to the U.S. searching for better opportunities. Eilis deals with simple problems: the boat trip across, her accommodations in America, starting a new job, going to school, the people she meets, homesickness. A chronicle so straightforward, the sum total of which could be summarized in 2 sentences. The relationships she develops and her conflicting feelings regarding her past and her current experience come into play. I won’t spoil with specifics. We’ve seen this material before.  What makes Brooklyn so affecting is the fully realized portrait of American life, as seen through the eyes of an outsider.  The entire composition is rather profound. Brooklyn is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Irish author Colm Tóibín. The screenplay is adapted by Nick Hornby (About a Boy, An Education) and directed by John Crowley (Boy A). Brooklyn somehow presents the subject in a way that feels innovative and new. The depiction is honest, sweet, lovely and sincere.

At the heart of Brooklyn is Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant played by Saoirse Ronan. Her talent was famously recognized in 2007 after a supporting part in Atonement for which she received an Oscar nomination. She’s all but assured of another, this time in the Best Actress category. The film’s narrative rests completely on the shoulders of the ingenue. She beautifully upholds the story in every scene with poise and class. She’s supported by a fairly large cast. Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Bríd Brennan all support her in key roles. Every single actor having a chance to shine with their rich performances. But this is Saoirse Ronan’s show and she commands the screen.

It has been said that eyes are the window to the soul. Director John Crowley utilizes this to his advantage. Sometimes the camera simply lingers on Saoirse’s expressive face. Her countenance speaks volumes, but there’s also a sophistication just in the way she carries herself. She recalls classic Hollywood with her hypnotic presence. You’ll marvel that this actress is only 21 years old. The maturity of her performance is nothing less than a flawless achievement that elevates the entire film. A Best Picture nomination somehow eluded Avalon & In America, pleasantly optimistic tales about immigration. I’m hoping that changes with Brooklyn.

11-11-15

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30 Responses to “Brooklyn”

  1. With your high praise of this film I think I’m going to have to see this in theaters after all. I have been on the fence about it for sometime having read a few lukewarm reviews and a few slightly more positive ones. But I trust you so I think this will be a nice fit for me too. I love old-school romantic tales, for lack of a better term. Something about this just seems quaint. And Ronan is a stellar actress

    • Movies don’t get better reviews than this. Brooklyn has achieved universal critical acclaim. I’m talking Whiplash, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel kind of reviews. It even scored an 87 on Metacritic, which historically, is rather harsh on films. Yes, please do see it. 😀

  2. Couldn’t agree more. This is such a refreshing take on romance and identity, with so many stellar performances. Does well to steer clear of saccharine for the most part too. Great review!

  3. Nice heartfelt review Mark. I saw Brooklyn on opening night of the TCFF in MInneapolis last month. Loved it.

    If you have time, you may want to listen to an interview with Director John Crowley and starring actress Saoirse Ronan on Fresh Air. The interview aired today, Tuesday the 17th. It runs about twenty minutes. There’s also a transcript if you prefer to read it rather than listen. Here’s the link:

    http://www.npr.org/2015/11/17/456195403/brooklyn-chronicles-the-heartache-of-the-irish-american-immigrant-experience

  4. abbiosbiston Says:

    I love Saoirse Ronan and I was really looking forward to this but it’s already out of my local theatre 😦

  5. Final review. You have me thoroughly excited for this one.

  6. Sounds like one to catch. The trailer certainly caught my attention. Visually this movie looks stunning.

  7. Wow, I’m making time for this. Guessing it will come to my theater in Dec. Well written as always, and I really want to see Ronan in this. Haven’t heard much about the movie aside from her stellar performance.

  8. Great write up! I’m looking forward to this one. Based on the trailer it looks absolutely beautiful!

  9. It really annoys me that even when films expand, the chance that they will play within a 40 minute driving distance of me is rare. Brooklyn and Spotlight are just two of many examples. Hopefully this changes when I go off to college in August. The town I’m looking at has a Regal theater nearby that plays all kinds of stuff.

    • I can’t believe they are dragging on the theatrical expansion. Brooklyn and Spotlight are two of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year. It is indeed frustrating.

  10. This looks great! I do like my period films, especially when they have an interesting premise and a great cast!

  11. Even having seen only a few of the year’s movies, I find it hard to believe there was a better one than this. It’s the script that sets it apart, containing – as “Avalon” did – lots of believable characters with traits good and bad, endearing and annoying. (Why can’t more writers figure out how to do that?) The story’s essentially a personal one though — would you agree? — in centering on the dilemma the protagonist’s faced with, rather than on how the change of culture’s affected her.

    • I don’t want to reveal where it will end up in my yearly list just yet. There’s still 4 more weeks of awards-worthy films to see but Brooklyn will most defintely will be in my Top 10.

      It feels like a very personal story. Are you familiar with author Colm Tóibín or the novel on which it’s based?

  12. One of the best movies of the year. A love story for the ages. Enjoyed every bit of it. Should garner multiple nominations. Picture, actress, cinematography, etc. 5 stars

  13. My wife & I simply loved it. She is English living in NZ & connected deeply to the homesickness Eileesh felt. For me I liked the flag it waved for gentleness & decency. A kind Catholic priest? How refreshing.

  14. You’re right. Brooklyn is an invigorating breath of positive air. Its unapologetic old-fashionedness is romantic and heartwarming, as you say. Strangely its take on an age-old story feels fresh and its so remarkably earnest. Saoirse Ronan holds this film up and commands the screen for sure. What I was most surprised about was how funny this film was. I laughed a lot especially at the woman who ran the boarding house. I dunno, maybe it’s my Irish sense of humor that made it appealing. Anyway, great review Mark.

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