BROOKLYN (Ireland | UK | Canada/12A/111mins)
Directed by John Crowley. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Emily Bett Rickards, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent.
THE PLOT: In the 1950s, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) emigrates from Enniscorthy to Brooklyn. Initially homesick, Eilis struggles to make friends in the big city, until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a young Italian man who she quickly falls for. When tragedy strikes and Eilis returns home for a visit, she is forced to choose between the life she left behind and her new one at the other side of the world.
THE VERDICT: Although perhaps best known for ‘Intermission’, ‘Brooklyn’ is not the first time that director John Crowley has delved into the world of gentle drama; he also directed ‘Is Anybody There?’ in 2008. With ‘Brooklyn’, Crowley has cemented his place as an Irish filmmaker on the world stage, and created a moving and warm look into the life of an Irish immigrant in the US.
Saoirse Ronan is wonderful in the leading role; both feisty and overwhelmed, with plenty of charm and wit. It is mostly through Ronan’s eyes that we see the film, and her homesickness and grief at leaving her home are writ large across her face. Domhnall Gleeson has a small role as Jim Farrell, one of the men who Eilis must choose between, the other, Tony, is played by Emory Cohen with a gentle charm. The rest of the cast is made up of Jim Broadbent, Brid Brennan, Emily Bett Rickards and Julie Walters in a fine turn as an over bearing Irish ‘mother’ to a boarding house full of young women in Brooklyn.
Colm Tóibín’s novel was adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, who has drawn out the grief and the heartbreak of leaving home and everything you know behind, and blended in some honest truths. The screenplay deals with the concept of homesickness, and the conflict within Eilis as she tries to reconcile her feelings at wanting to get away and live her own life with her loyalty to her mother.
As director, John Crowley has created a slow and gentle film, and coaxed a stellar performance from Saoirse Ronan. The film does feel a little messy at times, as it jumps through time quite regularly, and from time to time, does not show how relationships between the characters have changed, only that they have. That said, the film is beautifully designed, and Ronan is at the top of her game, ably carrying this emotional and heartbreaking story of love and loss.
In all, ‘Brooklyn’ is a film about leaving your old life behind and starting a new one. The themes of love and grief are carefully explored here, and Ronan is on beautiful form in the leading role. There are times when the film jumps around in time a little too much, but the final effect is moving, endearing and heart warming.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    Based on the novel by Colm Toibin, Brooklyn marks a departure for the ever-rising Saoirse Ronan. Gone are those teenage roles, in come the more mature, adult roles that should mark out an even brighter future for the 21-year-old. In Brooklyn, Ronan plays Eilis, a naive and timid girl living in the gossipy, small-minded Enniscorthy of the 1950s. Thanks to Brooklyn-based Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), she’s given the opportunity of sampling a different, more open life by taking that time-honoured Irish tradition of going across the pond to America. When she arrives, she takes up lodgings in Brooklyn with a group of Irish girls watched over by the fussy but kind Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters). She finds it hard to adapt initially and feels homesick. But a friendly face arrives in the form of Tony (Emory Cohen), an Italian-American who has a thing for Irish girls. But he’s actually quite a gentleman and a tender courtship takes place. But the lure of the ‘aul sod comes calling, as a family tragedy back home means that Eilis must leave Brooklyn for a while. While home, everyone notices how different Eilis is, including admirer Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). Torn between two countries and two equally decent, thoughtful men, Eilis will have to turn to her new-found maturity to decide the next, crucial, step in her life… There’s a well-worn but basically true saying that home is where the heart is. That’s certainly true of Brooklyn, an Irish film that will have great resonance for domestic audiences. But it’s also a film that has universal themes like the need for love and to be loved and the role of family, which can travel to international audiences (so often lacking in many Irish films). The story is relatively straightforward, composed of a will-she, won’t-she scenario. What elevates it though is Ronan, whose character arc is so beautifully subtle and gradual. Her journey from awkward, aimless country girl to confident young woman in control of her life is done with superb, precision acting. It makes what could have been a cliched story into a far more resonant, heart-felt one. Director John Crowley of Intermission fame surrounds her with a fine supporting cast too, which also includes Brid Brennan, Nora-Jane Noone and Eva Birthistle. His camera peers past Ronan’s pale face into those soulful eyes, where so much more is going on. Eilis is not so much trapped by her world, but trapped by the choices forced upon her. In lesser hands, Brooklyn could have been a middling adaptation. Instead, the combination of Ronan’s flawless acting and Crowley’s sterling direction have raised the bar to produce one of those occasional, must-see Irish films. ****

  • emerb

    “Brooklyn” is based on the novel by celebrated Irish author Colm Tóibín and beautifully adapted by Nick Hornby. Superbly directed by John Crowley, it tells the moving story of Eilis Lacey, an Irish immigrant who travels to America in the early 1950s for a more prosperous life. Finding herself caught between two countries and two loves, the drama unfurls in a tender, heart-breaking and truly engaging tale where ultimately a young woman is torn between her homeland and her future. We watch her blossom from an Irish naif to a self-confident young woman. In particular, I thought that the focus on a young girl was refreshing in that so few similar tales focus on a female experience and the role is superbly acted by Saoirse Ronan.

    Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) lives with her fragile mother (Jane Brennan) and beloved sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), in a rural Irish town. However, opportunities are scarce and unable to earn enough money, she reluctantly agrees to leave her family and take the ship to New York – a naive fledgling forced out of the nest and into a world for which she’s not ready. But the unplanned adventure to America is a sudden one, and leaving behind the warm familiarity she grew up in is devastating for the trepidatious young girl. She is crushed by loneliness and life is just too unfamiliar and alienating. While there, she moves into a ladies boarding house presided over by the strict and opinionated Ma Kehoe (a very funny Julie Walters). The merry bunch of gossipy Irish women befriend her providing advice that helps her slowly come out of her shell.

    Eilis’ cloud of melancholy begins to lift when Tony (Emory Cohen), a sweet-faced young Italian boy, starts to take interest. Proving himself to be a sensitive gentleman, a tentative and charming courtship begins. They are swept up in the rush of young love, complete with many walks, regular weekend dates, fond but polite talk and scant physical contact! Tony turns things around for Eilis, filling the void left by her family back in Ireland — at least, until a tragic twist forces her to return home. The couple marry quietly at City Hall before she boards the ship and this only further complicates the vastly changed situation she discovers upon her return

    Everyone is so happy to see her, her best friend Nancy is getting married, and Eilis finds, much to her surprise, that New York has made her more desirable. Soon another handsome successful suitor, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), is vying for her affection. He politely but insistently courts her, wines and dines her and takes her to a beautiful long beach for walks. This changes everything and forces Eilis to reexamine where her heart truly belongs. Though she’d intended the trip to be short, she failed to anticipate the sheer pull that Ireland would have over her. In so many ways, life would be far easier if she just stayed here among her old friends and surviving family, whereas adapting to the American way suddenly seems like such an effort. She must decide if she wants to move forward with her life, or stay where she’s comfortable.

    The casting is perfect and from the leads to the smaller roles, the acting is uniformly superb. Saoirse Ronan is outstanding and gives a powerful performance, arguably her best to date. Seen in just about every shot of the film, she lights up the screen with her piercing blue eyes and pale skin. She perfectly captures the sheer depth of turmoil her character must be going through underneath – the romantic conflicts, reflections on the past, and turbulent worries about the future. When she has tough choices in front of her, the tears flow, but she is at all times credible and her grief always rings true. The potent chemistry that she shares with both Cohen and Gleeson is simply delightful. And she’s not alone as the cast is amazing across the board. Julie Walters in particular is fantastic as the sharp-tongued mistress of the boarding house, she conducts her many comic exchanges brilliantly. The dinner scenes between the tentative Eilis and the more experienced and unforgiving girls are charming and full of comedy and wit. One hilarious interlude involves Eilis being taught how to eat pasta without splashing the sauce in preparation for going to Tony’s home for dinner, an event dominated by his wise-cracking eight-year-old brother who is a complete scene stealer. As Tony, Cohen is a total delight, capturing a blend of shyness, enthusiasm and politeness. As a proper society Irishman, Gleeson grows on you and, one of my favourites, the always-wonderful Jim Broadbent offers affable wit.

  • Randy

    While Saoirse’s performance is praise-worthy – subtle and unassuming, the film itself laves much to be desired. It adheres to a strict and predictable structure – scenes at the store, dinners with “funny” dialogue, dances, “romance”. The main character couldn’t be less in control of her own life, going along with just about everything. Nothing is made out of the difficulties women experience in the 50s. She faces no adversity for taking night classes in accountancy and doesn’t even seek them out herself…The cinematography sis rather pedestrian and the whole flick pales in comparison with Carol which is set at the same time, also a department store clerk and a woman finding herself and finding romance. Unlike Carol, this one is just too crisp and perfect to be drawn into.