Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant begins navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother's home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries, two men - and the lives that exist within.
Review by Louise Keller:
Superbly told, this engrossing 50s romantic drama captures our imagination in all things - big and small. Nick Hornby's skilful screen adaptation of Colm Toibin's novel highlights every little detail, which in turn, allows us to understand the tumultuous journey of the film's protagonist, played by the talented Saoirse Ronan. Ronan has a great capacity for stillness on screen, allowing the audience to feel what her character is feeling. As Eilis, the innocent young girl who leaves her home in Ireland with the stars of opportunity in her eyes, we are there with her all the way, as she discovers new horizons and puts the old ones in perspective. It's a story about choices: two men and two countries. Director John Crowley has made a wonderful film that satisfies totally and offers great rewards both intellectually and emotionally.
It is no coincidence that the film begins in the grocer shop of the town busybody, who puts everyone down as a matter of course. We remember every little detail of the scene, which is critical for the final payoff. That is where we meet Eilis (Ronan), a timid little mouse, who works there on Sundays. But not for long: she is about to embark on a ship to New York, where her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has made arrangements with the kindly Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) for accommodation in Brooklyn, at a boarding house for Irish girls. We feel the tangible bond between Eilis and Rose, as well as their pain when they say goodbye. The life that Rose has orchestrated for Eilis is one that she, as principal carer for their ageing mother (Jane Brennan), will never have and selflessly gifts to her sister.
The transformation of Eilis from timid, homesick Irish girl to a woman who knows what she wants is a gradual thing. We are there through the trials and tribulations on the outward journey, the settling in at the boarding house and the requirements at the upmarket department store in which she works. The scene in which Father Flood is called to treat Eilis' bout of homesickness is memorable in many ways and Broadbent embodies a wise, kind soul who knows exactly what to say and do.
The development of the relationship between Eilis and Tony (Emory Cohen, endearing), the Italian plumber she meets at the weekly Irish dance is delightful. Cohen's Tony is reminiscent of Marlon Brando in the 50s and I loved the way the boarding house girls school Eilis in the art of eating spaghetti before the inevitable dinner, when Tony takes her home to meet the family. There's a gentle purity about their relationship and a welcome simplicity about Tony, who prefers Eilis to do the talking. 'Taps drip; toilets get blocked. What else is there to know about plumbing?'
We are there for the challenges, the joys and the pain as Eilis finds her footing and a taste of happiness. It is not until she returns to Ireland and meets 'a suitable man' (played by the charismatic Domnhall Gleeson) who is calm and civilized, that we realise how much she has changed. But has she? The seesaw swings as the Irish heart contemplates.
This is a beautiful film with many rewards. The excellent production design takes us into the era; the dialogue is never cluttered; there is emotional space where it is needed; humour evolves naturally. And there is Ronan, whose star has never waned since her breakout role in Atonement in 2007, aged 13.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's industry wisdom that in cinema, it all starts with the screenplay. In films adapted from books, it all starts with the original writing, and Colm T—ib’n is a highly acclaimed author. His immediate past novel was the awarded and acclaimed The Master, which like Brooklyn, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize (among other awards). Nick Hornby's adaptation (and Hornby's no hack either, remembered for many books (of which he has sold over 5 million copies), many of them adapted for the screen, such as About A Boy. My point is, it's thanks to these two writers at the top of their craft, that we have a film as satisfying and mature as Brooklyn.
It's not just the story, although that is vital; it's how it's told and what it tells us about humanity. Brooklyn deals with universal themes, but through the most intimate prism of a young woman who is starting to shape her life, uncertainly, walking into the future without a handrail. In the process, she confronts change, strangers, cultural shift and various relationship issues, not least finding a mate.
Director John Crowley also deserves credit for the work. We could argue glibly that he had most of his work pretty well done when he cast Saoirse Ronan as the young woman, Eilis Lacey. Ronan, always a wonderfully evocative actress, perfectly embodies Eilis, and grows from being na•ve and uncertain to worldly and assured in a seamless yet recognisable trajectory. We feel for her every step of the way, and share her inner conflicts, her homesickness and her struggle to respond to her own needs as well as her mother's.
Speaking of her mother, Jane Brennan is fine - until her ultimate scene with Eilis, when she is superb, delivering a beautifully contained yet emotionally powerful moment of motherly pain mixed with hope and love.
Indeed, the entire cast is wonderfully, tangibly real and authentic, from Emory Cohen as the Italian who falls for Eilis in Brooklyn and Domhnall Gleeson as the Irishman who falls for her in Ireland, to the lively Julie Walters as the boarding house madam, Mrs Kehoe, and fatherly priest Jim Broadbent.
Intricately detailed production design by Fran¨ois Seguin, Jake Roberts' economical but sensitive editing combined with the gently romantic score from Michael Brook and Yves Belanger's lighting, deliver a film that engages and fulfills the promise inherent in the writing.
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CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Eileen O'Higgins, Emily Bett Rickards, Paulino Nunes, Eve Macklin, Maeve McGrath, Jenn Murray, Aine Ni Mhuiri, Nora-Jane Noone
PRODUCER: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey
DIRECTOR: John Crowley
SCRIPT: Nick Hornby (novel by Colm T—ib’n)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yves Belanger
EDITOR: Jake Roberts
MUSIC: Michael Brook
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Fran¨ois Sˇguin
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 11, 2016