Rating: 12a Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cogen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters Directed by John Crowley Written by Nick Hornby and Colm Tóibín (Novel) Length: 117mins
John Crowley’s Brooklyn tells the story of a young Irish girl, Eilis (Ronan) who finds herself moving to New York to make something of herself; a timid girl thrown into the brash new world of post-War America. While sad to leave her mother and sister behind, they insist she escape her poor prospects in County Wexford and fight for something more. Whilst inevitably she struggles to fit in, Eilis finds her feet when Tony Fiorello (Cogan) asks her to dance, but when weddings and funerals call her back to Ireland, Eilis’s heart starts skipping to a more familiar beat when the charming Jim Farrell catches her eye and has her questioning what she wants from her future.
Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s classic leaving-home story focuses sensitively on Eilis’ vulnerability and conflict. Whilst, as you would expect, the film doesn’t include nearly as much detail as the novel, Hornby manages to extract the heart of the book and presents a real character driven story that allows the audience to travel the journey alongside Eilis. The film carries a deceptively low-key charm that appears to be very deliberate, both in dialogue, subtext and direction.
Whilst aesthetically brilliant, Brooklyn wouldn’t be the film it is without it’s star studded cast. Saoirse Ronan is outstanding. With her timeless appearance and flawless ability to perform with perfect nuanced gesture and expression she brings Eilis to life, this film can only add to the widely considered opinion that Ronan is one of the most compelling screen presences of her generation. Whilst Ronan carries the film, the supporting cast of Cogan and Gleeson give strong performances as Tony and Jim. Throw in Julie Walters portraying Eilis’s matriarchal landlady and Jim Broadbent as the unwavering Father Flood, it’s unsurprising that Brooklyn was a regular nominee throughout the awards season of 2016.
Contemporary audiences may have to recalibrate their reactions to appreciate John Crowley’s brilliant work in this film but for those who enjoy a tale with a true classic feel I highly recommend this watch. It’s restrained but unashamedly romantic which is achieved with a beautifully subtle, old fashioned elegance that this coming of age tale deserves. Brooklyn evokes the sense of being torn between time, place and identity. In Ireland, Eilis is a daughter with a history; in America she is a woman with a future. This film has the power to elicit emotion from it’s audiences, provoking the audience to question what they might do in Eilis’s shoes.