Brooklyn (2015)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on November 18, 2015 @

Brooklyn is a wonderful, feel-good film. Mostly.

It has an intoxicating leading performance by Saoirse Ronan, with spirited support from a talented cast and gifted filmmakers.

Brooklyn, set in the 1950's, is the story of Eilis Lacey (Ronan), who immigrates to Brooklyn, New York, from a small town in Ireland.

She is innocent and inexperienced, in wary pursuit of the future. She is less plain and more willful in the film than her character in the novel from which she embarks.

An Irish Roman Catholic priest has arranged for her trip, and another has provided her with both a job (at a department store) and a boarding house where she lives with other young women under the watchful eye of landlady, Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters).

Eilis experiences some fitful relationships, but is kindly mentored by the floor manager at the department store (Jessica Pare, Megan Draper in TV's Mad Men). And she is overseen by her landlady. She takes classes in bookkeeping at Brooklyn College to improve her prospects.

An Italian young man Tony (Emory Cohen, yes, Cohen) comes into her life. Eilis is pulled by romance, career, and past. Fate calls her back to Ireland, and ultimately she has to face a crucial decision.

For most of its length, Brooklyn is an enchanting, intelligent mood piece. But when Eilis returns to Ireland, the film threatens to become a bar of Irish Spring - a sudsy soap opera.

Eilis finds herself between two countries and two men. But it is difficult to imagine that the Eilis to whom we have been introduced in the first half of the movie would lose her will so easily and become so bland. This section is shaky in its motivation.

Then the film relies on a brief encounter that is very coincidental.

Fortunately, the conclusion of the film restores the essential charm.

The cast of Brooklyn is first-rate. Saoirse Ronan beautifully captures the gentle sensitivity and intelligence of the evolving colleen. Emory Cohen captures the coltish quality of young love.

The versatile Domhnall Gleeson effectively portrays the earnest, quiet Irish suitor. Julie Walters is a hoot as the no-nonsense landlady. And Jim Broadbent brings credibility to the generous priest.

Director John Crowley - except for the lapse in plot - utilizes the essentials of film in masterly form. The music by Michael Brook has a soft lilt and power. It keeps the spell alive.

The imagery by cinematographer Yves Belanger uses bright colors and bright light creatively and symbolically. When Eilis opens a door after she arrives in New York, bright light floods in. Eilis often is garbed in green - a color that suggests growth. Of course, in spring Eilis wears a bright yellow dress. But green dominates.

Light reveals.

The editing by Jake Roberts is keen and keeps the pace vibrant.

Nick Hornby, who wrote the novel and screenplay for About a Boy (2002), wrote the screenplay for Brooklyn, adapting the novel of Colm Toibin. He and director Crowley enhance the novel. They add lustre to a rather lusterless novel.

Hornby has a gift for undercurrents of humor. He cuts some of the more barbed dialogue that is in the novel. And he adds beguiling scenes, e.g. Eilis and a young woman on the ship. He increases the humanity, which was such a part of About a Boy.

Brooklyn survives choppy waters. After cruising, then wavering, at the end Brooklyn comes to its senses and restores equilibrium.

Mood returns. And prevails.

© 2000-2024 Tony Macklin