Thursday, October 08, 2015

“Brooklyn”– Movie Review



This week at the 2015 New York Film Festival, I attended a screening of “Brooklyn” , a new drama based on the novel by Colm Toibin. 


When an Irish woman moves to New York City, she falls in love and gets married – but after a family matter causes her to return home, will her new marriage survive?


For many, life in Ireland is something of a dead-end in the 1950’s; some young Irish are consider leaving, seeking a better future abroad. Many of those emigrants look to The United States of America for this future, a considerable number of them settling in New York City – specifically, Brooklyn. One such young woman was Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), who asked a priest in New York to be her sponsor; after he finds Eilis a place to live and sets her up with a job, she bids goodbye to her friends and family and sails to The Big City. Upon arrival, life is not easy; Eilis has great difficulty adjusting to the unfamiliar surroundings and different culture and becomes homesick.

Trying to acclimate herself to her new home, Eilis attends a dance in her neighborhood which caters to the local Irish community; there, she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), who is not Irish but instead a young man of Italian descent. The two seem to like each other and begin to spend a considerable amount of time together; after a while, it is clear to them both that they are falling in love. Just as things are going unbelievably well for Eilis, she gets word of an unforeseen tragedy back home and must return to Ireland for a while to be with her family. Before leaving, however, she and Tony marry.

Once home, she resumes her relationship with family and friends – although after a year away, Eilis is obviously a much different person since living in America. Eilis remains secretive about her marriage to Tony, fearing disapproval. A friend of hers sets up Eilis on a double-date with Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), an attractive man from a wealthy family. During her month in Ireland, Eilis and Jim start socializing, which appears to be turning more into dates. Unaware of her true life back in America, Jim begins to get thoughts of marriage. But when Eilis becomes ambivalent about sailing back to America, will she abandon her Brooklyn husband or abandon a life of privilege in Ireland?


Having seen a number of American independent films over the past few years, it’s becoming painfully clear that maybe the Europeans are better at telling small stories like the one in “Brooklyn” than we are and the United States should just stick to making things like The Avengers and Star Wars.  As a long-time resident of Brooklyn, it’s a delight to report that the borough could not be better – or more romantically – represented than in this movie.  The story in “Brooklyn” is told with such rare grace and elegance that it is a pleasure to watch. 

Standouts in “Brooklyn” are the screenplay by Nick Hornby and the performance by Saoirse Ronan.  Although the tale is one of romance, Hornby never allows the script to become sloppy and mawkish.  Close-ups of Ronan reveal a face that is extraordinarily expressive, especially in her eyes; she plays Eilis with such forthright earnestness that it is impossible for the audience not to root for her to do the right thing so that all will work out for the best in the end.  It will be quite enjoyable indeed to see her performances in future movies.  Also, Julie Walters is a riot in every one of her scenes. 

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with director John Crowley, star Saoirse Ronan, novelist Colm Toibin, screenwriter Nick Hornby, producer Finola Dwyer and young actor James DiGiacomo (who steals every one of his scenes).  Crowley said that only two days of shooting were actually spent in Brooklyn; the remaining Brooklyn scenes were actually shot in Montreal over a course of three weeks.  He said that this was done primarily for financial considerations because trying to make present-day Brooklyn look like 1950’s Brooklyn would have been a prohibitively expensive proposition.  (Also, this film is partly produced by a Canadian company, so that may have contributed to the “financial considerations”, although he did not explicitly cite this as a reason). 

Brooklyn (2015) on IMDb

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