By: Muneeb Arshid
Brooklyn is the beautiful story of love and heartbreak starring the ever wonderful Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey, Domhnall Gleeson as Jim Farrell and Emory Cohen as Tony. Adapted from the novel of the same name, the movie is set in 1950s Ireland and as the title says Brooklyn. It follows Eilis on her journey, emigrating from Ireland to America and settling into her new life in Brooklyn, New York.
Brooklyn is a film that is much more than just about emigration and love and romance. The surprise of the movie is how funny it actually is. It does a wonderful job in balancing the romance between the two main characters in Eilis and Tony, with the heartbreak that the viewer feels towards the middle of the film (due to a certain unfortunate event) all mixed in with wonderful comedy between the interplay of the characters.
All the actors in this film excel in their performances. Of note is Saoirse Ronan as Eilis who delivers a performance that may be a revelation to many newer film goers, but to those who have watched films like Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel will know how great of a presence that Ronan has in films that she is featured in as well in those she’s just supporting the main cast like the latter. Ronan also has a tendency to be the star of movies even when those movies have been lambasted by critics. Ronan portrays Eilis in a way that sucks you into her role for yourself, making you feel what she is feeling as she leaves her home of Ireland for the greater opportunities in America. There aren’t very many actors in the business who can make a viewer feel like that, especially for those who aren’t immigrants, but it makes you stand in her shoes and really shows the conundrum that these immigrants were in back in the 1950s about not wanting to leave home but also knowing that the greater opportunity so far away, was important and achievable.
As you go through the journey with Eilis, she has her own ups and downs that she encounters, with having to leave behind family, to overcoming homesickness when in New York, then having the ups in a good relationship for the first time and then downs again with problems back in Ireland. The whole time you’re going with this journey and you feel that these problems were not something over the top for the 1950s and that it was quite commonplace for new immigrants. But, the great redeeming factor of this film is Ronan, and it’ll keep coming back to Saoirse Ronan and how she portrays her character. Through every trial and tribulation, she is the rock of the film, with no emotion being too hysterical, whether it’s good or bad news which makes her very relatable. Ronan plays her character’s emotions with such subtlety that just the flicker of a change on her facial expressions is enough to tell the viewer how she’s feeling with certain situations that she is dealt with.
Eilis’ progression in the film is also key as to how the film sets her up and how she eventually responds later, with Eilis being someone who kept her own business, did not have any relationships back home in Ireland. Then her having to adjust from living in a small village to a bustling metropolitan like Brooklyn, to eventually being so comfortable in any setting that by the end of the film, you could tell that living through the immigration process, she had gotten much more experience on how to deal with difficult situations, characters and relationships. She reaches a point where she has to juggle multiple relationships at the same time (one of which is VERY serious), which as compared to the beginning of the movie, you never would’ve thought that Eilis would be the girl to do so.
There are in actuality about four other characters who give heartfelt, wonderful performances, but of note are the performances by Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters as Father Flood and Mrs. Kehoe respectively. Father Flood is the reverend of the church that has sponsored Eilis to come to America and is the one responsible for setting up residence with Mrs. Kehoe’s hostel and Eilis’ department store job. The commonality between the Father and Mrs. Kehoe is that they provide Eilis with a comfortable environment where they make her feel as if she has always belonged to the new society. This is more in the case of Mrs. Kehoe, a resident of Brooklyn who takes in women until they can get settled and that is precisely what she does while also providing some of the funniest one-liners seen in the movie.
Father Flood, on the other hand, is the old Irish man, who’s lived through what Eilis is going through in her adjustment to her new life. He does his best in making sure that she adjusts with her new job at her own pace, but also provides her a father figure in a place that is 3000 miles away from Eilis’ own home and her own mother and sister. One of the most beautiful scenes is while Eilis is helping out at Christmas at the dinner for all the Irish men who helped build the tunnels and bridges in the city and have nowhere to go. You have this beautiful song performed at the dinner which conveys all the emotion from the movie, from happiness to sadness with the beautiful cinematography panning across the faces of these world-weary old men. If you watch the trailer at the end of this review, the background song is the song featured during this scene.
Part two of the Irish story ends up being Eilis trying to figure out who she is as a person, and questioning the decision’s she made in New York prior to returning to Ireland. The beauty of the story is again, it doesn’t take any drastic emotional stance in terms of the tone of the movie or the character’s emotions wildly changing throughout. Instead, the movie rather progressively builds itself based upon her emotions at any certain period in the film, allowing the characters to react more accurately as to the situation and not making any radical decisions.
I’ve spent the past 900 words talking about the characters that I haven’t had a chance to talk about the gorgeous cinematography of the film. Not so much in Ireland, but once the story makes it way to New York, DP Yves Belanger portrays Brooklyn in a way that oddly makes you feel like you’re one of the extras walking along the streets in a fresh 3 piece suit or a brand new designer dress.
Overall, on the surface, the movie could easily be described as a 3 hand romance between Eilis, Tony, and Domhnall Gleeson’s Jim, but this movie is far more than that. It is about a young woman, dealing with the circumstances of emigrating from her home, then making the necessary adjustments for her new life, only to be thrown a curveball and having to decide what’s best for her: Her New Life or her old?
Brooklyn has been released with the pretentions that it will do well at the Oscars. There are probably two nominations that are shoo-ins for this movie, Best actress for Saoirse Ronan and Best Costume Design. Ronan definitely has the better chance in her category, but it looks like she’ll be competing with a few strong performances by other lead actresses, which could make it tough.
However, Brooklyn as a whole was an absolute charmer and receives a grade of A