Brooklyn made its acclaimed debut at the beginning of the year at the Sundance Film Festival, and I have a feeling that by the time Oscars roll around 13 months later it will still be standing. As I say in my video review (click the link above), in the past few months immigration has become a hot-button topic in the Presidential race and around the world, but nothing has brought the subject home more personally to me than it did when I saw this story of a young Irish immigrant to America who finds herself caught between two countries and affairs of the heart. This puts it singularly on a very human level, focusing on one person, and I found it enormously moving.
Nick Hornby (An Education, Wild) has beautifully adapted Colm Toibin’s 2009 bestseller about Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young girl living in a small Irish town in the early 1950s who suddenly has the opportunity to come to America. Arriving in Brooklyn, she finds lodging at a young women’s boarding house, a job at a department store, and most importantly a lively local suitor in Tony (Emory Cohen), who becomes her boyfriend and maybe much more before sudden tragedy brings her back to her homeland where in the face of momentous personal decisions she must choose between two countries and two very different lives.
Usually these stories of young immigrants are almost always centered on men, but in this case it is this young woman who finds herself at a crossroads between the life she knows and the life she might have. John Crowley (Boy A) has found just the right balance to bring this tale to life on the screen, and it is magnificently shot and designed, but it clearly rests on the shoulders of its star, Ronan, who puts herself smack in the middle of the Oscar race with a luminous and lovely performance that hits just the right notes. Thanks to her delicate work here the audience is right there with Eilis as she must navigate a world she doesn’t really know in order to find answers that aren’t so obvious.
What annoys me about a lot of these types of stories is often you can tell which way it will go, but not in this case. Perhaps because both of her “suitors” are good men with pure motivations. Cohen as Tony is all Brooklyn and the kind of charmer you can easily see someone like Eilis falling for. Back in Ireland, Domnhall Gleeson as Jim presents a real quandary for her and also for the audience. Both actors bring nuance, likability and nice detail to the film, which makes this triangle spanning two countries work as well as it does. The fine supporting cast includes veterans Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters. Brooklyn is a gem.
Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey produced the Fox Searchlight release, which begins a platform run November 6. Do you plan to see Brooklyn? Let us know what you think.