Country: Ireland, UK, Canada
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby
based on the novel of Colm Tóibín
Music: Michael Brook
Cinematography: Yves Bélanger
Emily Bett Rickards
From the Irish director who has made BOY A (2007), John Crowley’s latest feature BROOKLYN is a three-time Oscar nominee (including BEST PICTURE and BEST LEADING ACTRESS), a tailor-made immigration drama for Saoirse Ronan, who plays Eilis Lacey, a young Irish woman from Enniscorthy in 1952, who gets a chance to emigrate to America by virtue of the correspondence between her beloved elder sister Rose (Glascott) and Father Flood (Broadbent) in New York.
The seafaring journey takes its toll on Eilis, the first-time traveler, she has to adopt a new life with other young girls in the boarding house run by Madge Kehoe (Walters) in Brooklyn and homesick is the incubus she must endure every day. But Eilis is a smart girl, soon she becomes the favourite of Ms. Kehoe, enrols in the bookkeeping classes, and gets familiar with her day time job as a saleswoman in a department store, but most importantly, she meets Tony (Cohen), an Italian boy whom she meets in an Italian ball. The simple and good-natured Tony charms her, they starts a relationship, life reveals its kaleidoscopic facets to Eilis in the booming land, America becomes an Elysium for an immigrant.
But a tragedy occurs out of the blue in her family in Ireland, to comfort her beleaguered mother, Eilis decides to go back and right before her departure, the two lovebirds get married in secrecy. Back in her hometown, Eilis unexpectedly realises that many previously unavailable opportunities emerge, and her New York background does ameliorate her image among local folks, a dream job opportunity and a prosperous suitor Jim Farrell (Gleeson) both pop up. Eilis is at the crossroad of her life, should she stay or should she return?
BROOKLYN excels in its frankness and sincerity of demonstrating human feelings, the affection between Eilis and Tony is so genuine and fulfilling to watch, that’s how true love happens to two people, the Ronan-and-Cohen pair incredibly stokes great admiration for their chemistry and acting faculty. Also, Ronan is extremely poignant in leavening her yearning of home in the first half of the movie, shows no stage fright under the prolonged close-ups, and indisputably it is her maturest performance to date (it is gracious to see finally a past Oscar-nominated child prodigy is able to safely transform into a competent adult player in the 21st century). Plus, the ever-so-amazing Julie Walters upstages her costars in her chirpiness and sharp tongue, which leaves a uneasy void due to her absence after the midstream.
A major incoherence in the otherwise remarkable narrative arises when audience is shown that Eilis keeps all Tony’s letters from New York unopened when she is back in Ireland, and this causes some stirring because up to that moment, what the film has projected is that Eilis hasn’t been swayed from her resolution to return in spite of all the changes around her. She plays along to please her mother (Jane Brennan), and carefully does not give any false hope to Jim, so since when she has steered to have a change of heart so dramatically? This deployment feels too rushed, adding Eilis’ expedient decision after her secret being disclosed by the mean-spirited Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan), it all makes us wonder how strong is Eilis’ devotion to Tony anyway? That is quite a grating thought if we have been investing all our empathy on her all the way through, and should have been nipped in the bud.