Director: John Crowley
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters
Release Date: 6th November
There is the fear at first that Brooklyn is going to be a standard film about Irish people made for Americans: twee and awkward, with embarrassing accents and a lot of green fields. However, Brooklyn is a pleasant surprise. It succeeds in being a beautifully acted, intelligently written story of Irish emigration and the attempt to build a new life across the Atlantic Ocean.
Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish emigrant in 1950s Ireland, who decides to leave for New York. Leaving her loving sister, Rose, and her aging mother behind, she is plagued by homesickness. However it is not long before she begins to make a life for herself in New York. Ultimately, she must decide where she will settle and spend the rest of her life: with the family she loves, or her new home.
Brooklyn’s principle attraction is undoubtedly Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen, and their on-screen romance. Ronan, who is already being tipped for an Academy Award nomination for this performance, has the ability to convey emotion with the smallest gestures and simplest actions. She captures the emigrant experience with depth and emotion. Cohen, as the main love interest in the film, gives a similarly stunning performance. He seems constantly at ease in front of the camera, and his endearing and often heard-rending performance is something of beauty.
The film is not without its flaws, however. The first half is too much of a fairytale, and the writing shows a self-consciousness about this. Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) is introduced into the film for seemingly no reason other than to inject some much needed tension. He appears only to subvert the trajectory of bliss enacted between Ronan and Cohen in the first half of the film. Gleeson’s performance is lacklustre and bland, because he has nothing to work with. His character is utterly two-dimensional – thrown into the mix like a disappointing cardboard cut-out. Gleeson’s acting capabilities, which he has more than proven in other films, are entirely wasted here; he tries his best with weak material, but even he is unable to salvage his boring and flat character.
Gleeson’s disappointing character aside, Brooklyn is a triumph in its depiction of human relationships. Eilis’s relationships with her mother and sister are convincingly fraught with the pain of leaving. Their conversations are clipped and reserved, with each character conveying the painful experience of separation expertly.
Beautifully filmed with excellent acting, Brooklyn is well worth seeing. It succeeds in being one of the rare period dramas that captures the essence of a time perfectly. The performances of Ronan and Cohen show some of the strongest young actors working in film today. Their performances glean off each other, and they are convincing for every moment they’re on screen. Brooklyn is a stunning film that captures a time and a place beautifully, and despite the unstable and confused attempt at injecting tension through Gleeson’s character, it still succeeds as one of the standout Irish films of recent years.
In a nutshell: Beautifully filmed with some incredible acting, Brooklyn is one of the best Irish films of recent years with a standout performance from Saoirse Ronan.