Brooklyn (2015)

Brooklyn (2015)
  • Time: 111 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: John Crowley
  • Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen


An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.


  • (Rating: ☆☆½ out of 4)

    This film is mildly recommended.

    In brief: Saoirse Ronan brings forth a delicate performance in a standard romantic yarn (or yawn).

    GRADE: B-

    Ellis is an Irish lassie who is torn between two lands and two lovers in John Crowley’s romantic drama, Brooklyn. Acted to perfection by Saoirse Ronan in the central role, the film follows the travels of a young immigrant in 1952. With the financial help of a doting priest, she leaves her Irish countryside behind and arrives in America, homesick but ready to start a new life. Away from her loving sister and mother, she lives at a boarding house for single women and lands not only a job but a cute boyfriend as well. Of course, complications must arrive too, sending her back to Ireland and forcing her to make life-changing decisions in the process.

    The film chugs along at a leisurely pace as it fleshes out its interesting characters, even if their actions don’t always match their words. The film is bathed in a warm nostalgic glow and the director provides some fine touches. There is an authentic period style throughout the film, which is especially impressive with his small budget.

    The film’s biggest strength lies in its acting, which is consistently strong and makes one overlook its thin story which is weighed down with too many plot contrivances. The aforementioned Ms. Ronan creates a vivid heroine and the two men in her life, Tony (Emory Cohen) and Jim (Domhnall Gleason), are charming objects of affection. Both actors play their roles nicely. A stellar supporting cast is led by Fiona Glascott and Jane Brennan as her family members, Brid Brennan, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters, giving the film added sparks and showing off her comic timing very well.

    Yet all the actors’ hard work is undermined by Nick Hornby’s romanticized and heavy-handed script. It develops its characters well enough, but his plot becomes far too transparent and never builds any real tension or passion. Rather, it puts Ellis and her friends in early 1950’s backdrops acting more vintage and nothing takes place in a convincingly real world. Ethnic stereotypes (the fun loving Italian family, the proud Irish clan) and standard conventional types abound (the mean boss, the loving boyfriend, the outspoken landlady, the doting priest, etc.). Everyone seems like piled-on plot devices than real people.

    Still, Brooklyn is enjoyable in its sentimental look at more innocent times and its lead performance by Ms Ronan is well worth seeing. But like some foreign visitors, the film overstays its welcome and never acclimates to its new surroundings as well as it could. The film certainly doesn’t earn a Bronx cheer, but there’s no big hurrah for it in any of the other four boroughs, or here either.

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  • Brooklyn has been getting an immense amount of praise for it’s cinematic direction and heartfelt story. After watching the film, I’ve come to realize that this film is remarkable when it chooses to be. Unfortunately, for me, the film had more misses than gains.

    It’s a simple immigration story about an Irish immigrant who arrives in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

    Director John Crowley fails to achieve any sense of mood with his directing; as scenes feel bland and unoriginal similar to the locations they’re shot in. It felt as if the director chose the most uneventful locations to film the scenes. Within these shots, the cinematography and color pallet used are gloomy and somber, which devalues the beauty of her homeland and there’s no shift in directing with her move to America to represent a juxtaposition of culture. Brooklyn is no visual masterpiece because there are no memorable shots that leave you in awe.

    Actress Saoirse Ronan was exemplary in her performance. I loved the breathtaking performances she delivered in her older films, The Lovely Bones and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and wanted to watch her excel in this role. She easily filled the shoes of her character, Eilis, although at first it came off a little too strong. Her accent and performance early on felt awkward and nowhere near natural. Fortunately, her acting evolves and through the film we can evidently witness the gradual maturity of her character.

    What the films accomplishes very well is the sense of isolation when Eilis moves to America. The performance by Ronan truly and effectively makes her character seem lonely in a crowded world. She reads letters of her homeland over and over again and sulks in the past, unable to move past her longing for her family. This was a beautiful way to demonstrate how difficult it is adjusting to the American culture. When the character comes into America, she’s practically given everything she ever needs for success. That’s why it’s hard to feel any kind of emotional sympathy for the character when she practically has means to get by.

    The romance aspect of the film snuck in quietly and crept into existence the second half of the film when Eilis meets a charming Italian man named Tony (Emory Cohen). This boy-meets-girl cliché became almost unbearable to watch as they declared their love for each other extremely early into their relationship. It’s as if the writer has no conception of the word love and uses it synonymously to liking a person.

    Ultimately, Brooklyn is a unique portrayal of young love in connection to immigration but fails to deliver any cinematic originally that separates it from the crowd. It poetically represents a clash of cultures and the struggle of desiring to live in two places at once but introduces the conflict too late, leaving no time for true development.

  • Based on Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel about a young Irish immigrant torn between two countries and two loves, Brooklyn is a luminous and bittersweet film whose conflicts may be executed with calm, but whose power is spellbinding.

    The captivating Saoirse Ronan stars as Eilis Lacey, who reluctantly bids farewell to her family and friends in Enniscorthy, County Wexford in southeast Ireland. Her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has arranged the passage, a place for her to stay and job in Brooklyn with the help of an emigrated old priest named Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), who also enrolls Eilis in night classes. Rose understands what Eilis has yet to learn: that Enniscorthy may be home but it is a dead end and, whilst the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn may be overwhelming, the new surroundings signal a freedom and easiness that are in stark contrast to the insularity of her hometown.

    Life’s lessons often take a while to unfold, but learning can be had if one is not blinded with yearning and crushed by loneliness. Initially Eilis is quiet and recessive, listening with politeness to the chatter of the other girls who populate the boardinghouse run by the sharp-tongued Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters, clearly having a hoot and a half). She has awkward interactions with the customers at the Brooklyn department store where she is employed; her floor manager Miss Fortini (Jessica Paré), though sympathetic to her situation, sternly advises her to be better at her job. Letters from home can’t come soon enough, but they’re cold comfort to Eilis, who tearfully tells Father Flood, “I wish I could stop feeling that I want to be an Irish girl in Ireland.”

    Things begin to turn around once she meets working-class Italian, Tony (Emory Cohen), at a church dance. Their courtship is sweet and never saccharine, and one delights in Eilis’ blossoming. An unexpected occurrence sends her back to Enniscorthy, where her newfound sophistication affords her the very opportunities that were lacking before she left. She wishes it had been like this, she confesses to Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), the gentle and privileged charmer who begins to court her. One of the many charms of Brooklyn is its handling of Tony and Jim, who are both presented as worthy of her heart. Eilis could be happy with either of them, so strongly do the actors pledge their characters’ cases. Cohen recalls the young Marlon Brando in his Method-like intensity; his scenes with Ronan almost play like the shy and solicitous romance between Brando and Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront. Gleeson, meanwhile, conveys a winning mix of insecurity and sincerity that would have made Jimmy Stewart proud.

    Brooklyn absorbingly charts the expat experience with its curious mix of inherited nostalgia and newly earned history. Yet more than the theme of assimilation, it speaks to personal transformation and the American way of re-creating one’s self. Devoid of the usual crutches of voiceover narration and explanatory scenes, Eilis’ metamorphosis rests solely on the shoulders of the immensely talented Ronan, who is truly exceptional. Her delivery of the line “I’d forgotten what this town is like” may be one of the most chilling yet moving moments of self-realisation one is likely to see this year.

    Everything works in harmony from Nick Hornby’s alternately poignant and humourous screenplay to Michael Brook’s plangently melodic score to the subtle shifts in mood caught by cinematographer Yves Bélanger to the vibrant and lovingly detailed costumes and art direction by Odile Dicks-Mireaux and François Séguin, respectively. Classically crafted by director John Crowley, Brooklyn is the sort of wholesome, deeply felt escapism that has been sorely missing from the cinema screens for quite some time.

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  • In Brooklyn a timid Irish girl blossoms into an Irish American woman.
    Yet it’s titled after the destination not the heroine. That points to a direct connection between this very Irish film and an essential principle of Jewish theology: Lech le-cha’. The phrase comes from Genesis, where Jehovah commands Abraham to depart his native land for an indeterminate destiny elsewhere.
    The common reading is: The Lord loves leaving. That is, our destiny is not to rest where we are but to move on.
    Heroine Eilis (Saorirse Ronan) leaves her mother, sister Rose and village community for the challenges, dangers and ultimately, self-realization of 1950s Brooklyn (Montreal). So the film’s title emphasizes her destiny, not her initial self.
    The film begins and ends with Eilis leaving. In the first scene she leaves her home for the 7 o’clock Sunday Mass her stern employer expects her staff to attend. That is leaving as routine, going somewhere but always to the same place at the same time. That is movement as rut. There is no growth there, no risk.
    At the end she has left her solitary mother, a well-off suitor and her old world to return to America and the gentlemanly Italian plumber she has secretly married. Eilis may have been tempted to stay. But her malevolent old employer Mrs Kelly reminded her of the meanness of a self-absorbed life, our need to open out, to move on and to grow. In a phrase, Lech le-cha’.
    One essential tension here is between solitude and community. Ellis’s mother survives her husband’s and daughter Rose’s deaths, now her last daughter’s departure, to find herself finally alone. In her abject solitude she can’t bear to give Eilis a second goodbye.
    Rose’s early death saved her from wasting her life on her mother’s care, as Mrs Kelly warned Eilis, to burden her with guilt. Later, with no clear motive other than to assert her empty power, Mrs Kelly shows she knows of Eilis’s marriage.
    The women form another community. Mrs Keough’s Brooklyn boarding house for Irish girls is a community far warmer and livelier than the home Eilis left. In their alliterative names and authority Mrs Keough and Mrs Kelly embody antithetical spirits of discipline and authority. Mrs Keough and the girls help and advise each other. On her first journey Eilis is bolstered by a cabin-mate’s advice, which she then passes on to another neophyte on her voyage back.
    The Brooklyn priest is a model of Christian brotherhood and paternal care, as he registers and pays for Eilis’s evening course in bookkeeping. When he invites her to help serve the parish’s Christmas dinner to the unemployed Irish men he brings her out of her self-consciousness into a new confidence and spirit. This event is the turning point in her adjustment to America.
    Even her romance is another departure. At the Irish parish dance she meets the Italian who likes Irish girls, i.e., who himself feels the spirit of moving out, Lech le-cha’. He has outgrown his kid brother’s flat statement that the family dislikes the Irish, “It’s a well-known fact.” Ellis’s best girlfriend back home didn’t feel that ambition to grow, so despite her spirit and beauty she’s happy to settle with one of the local rugby boys, despite the embarrassment of oily air and conformist blazer. Or blazing conformity.
    The Eilis who radiates on her return to Ireland is a far cry from the pallid, green mouse who moved away. She’s brighter than ever when her husband spots her on the street, having returned unannounced.
    The shared Jewish-Irish theme is after all not surprising. Abraham is an avatar of the immigrant experience, which is central to both the Irish and the Jewish experience in America.

  • “Would you like to dance? Are you here with that guy? The one who was teaching you to dance? No. So would you dance with me? I’m not sure he taught me anything. Doesn’t matter. The secret is to look as though you know what you’re doing. Ah. I wish someone had told me that years ago.”

    No, I’m not really a big fan of romantic movies. Such movies that’ll make the female audience melt and whimper in a handkerchief out of sympathy with the main character. And no, I’m not an insensitive lump of testosterone who only likes to watch action packed, macho movies. But yeah, I usually eschew this type of movies. And yet I wanted to see this movie. Not because I made a mistake while buying paper tissues and now I’m buried under it. And not because I’m in an emotional slump and felt the urge to watch a sad movie with a trembling lower lip and moist eyes. The only reason I really wanted to see this movie is because of Saoirse Ronan. In my eyes she’s a revelation in Hollywood. A young, fresh and certainly not unattractive appearance. She breaths new life into Hollywood-land. And in addition to these physical characteristics I also have a deep admiration for her quirky choices she makes among the film roles offered to her.

    Ronan is the pulsating heart of this film. She requires our undivided attention during the whole film as the young Irish girl Eilis Lacey, who gets a chance to start a new life in the US. All by herself she travels to this far country, ignorant what awaits her. She’s leaving her mother and sister behind and before she knows it she’s torn by homesickness. Even her job as a saleswoman at Bartocci and accounting courses can’t help. This emotion keeps her in a grip. Until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a shy young Italian, at a dance and she slowly transforms from an introverted, simple Irish countryside girl into a typical American city girl who wears colorful dresses and discovers makeup. Her attitude and confidence change drastically. Compare that shy, lost girl at Customs with the resolute young woman watching at a valley along with Tony who reveals his future plans. An independent, decisive woman with a strict, determined look and her hands in her side, gazing at the horizon.

    But it’s not only Saoirse Ronan who shines in this film. Also the supporting cast is masterfully chosen and fits perfectly into the overall concept. Jane Brennan as Ellis’s mother, a taciturn woman who accepts her fate and acts as if she has no emotions. Fiona Glascott as the sister Rose. Brid Brennan who plays the role of the haughty nosy Miss Kelly and surprisingly she plays an important role in the final decision of Eilis. Julie Walters as the owner of the guest house who needs to keep two light-headed boarders in line all the time. Domhnall “About time” Gleeson is an Irish village boy who makes an attempt to convince Eilis to stay in Ireland. And of course Emory Cohen and his Italian family. A confident young man who slowly tries to win the young Irish girl’s heart.

    It’s not the obvious part that moved me. Probably the female audience will shed a tear during the final scene. But I myself was especially touched when a homeless person at a dinner, organized by the priest (Jim Broadbent) who helped Eilis around in Brooklyn, sang a Gaelic song. So pure, so sincere and so imbued with nostalgia. Catchy and intense at the same time. But especially the acting of Ronan is wonderful. She’s so explicitly present in this film. Her big steel-blue eyes, her modesty and her fragile personality. She shows what deep emotions she’s going through, just by using a serene expression. A performance that stands out from any of her previous performances. The heartbreaking choice she has to make between dull, drizzly Ireland and exciting, vibrant America is perfectly portrayed by her. For me, the Oscar for “Best Actress” is already reserved.

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  • “Home is home.”

    One day the sun will come out, and you’ll realize that this is where your life is. At least that’s what Brooklyn is trying to tell us, but despite its beauty and poetic charm, the movie falls flat for a film considered one of the year’s best.

    Brooklyn is a cinematic art piece on screen, and it tugs at all the right emotions. Irish director John Crowley paints a portrait of a girl most of us (in some way) can relate to–what it feels like to be homesick and the bittersweet emotional complexities of life on foreign soil. I felt immersed in the lush green and sullen gray landscapes of Ireland and the vibrant shades of New York, but why do I feel like I’ve forgotten the film so quickly after watching it? With its beautiful cinematography, genuine dialogue and heartfelt characters, why has Brooklyn left me feeling empty?

    Brooklyn embodies the majority of the films I’ve seen this year–absolutely beautiful on the exterior, but too hollow to suffice. I feel compelled to relate to the themes of loneliness and the bitter regret of leaving home, but the plot is pretty procedural. Without dipping their toes too deep, Brooklyn treads lightly on cliché territory. I’m trying to imagine the endless possibilities of direction this plot could have shifted toward, but still remain stumped as to what could have salvaged this movie from being just good to absolutely unforgettable.

    Based on a script by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nick Hornby (An Education) — in turn adapted from the Colm Toibin novel — Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young girl from a small town in Ireland during the 1950s, who travels to the United States in hopes of a better future. Eilis’s older sister Rose has arranged for her to go to Brooklyn to live in an Irish boarding house and work at a department store. At an Irish dance, Eilis meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a charming Italian fella, and the two eventually begin a relationship together. The romance is sweet, but the plot becomes far too transparent and never builds any real tension or passion.

    At about the film’s midway point, Eilis is called back home to deal with a family tragedy and returns home to Ireland. Here she meets a handsome Irish man and is torn between two men and two homes.

    Something that can absolutely be taken away from with this movie is the movie’s greatest asset, Saoirse Ronan, who has quietly been on the rise for years now. And she’s only 21-years-old!

    In 2008, at the age of 13, she became the seventh youngest actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Atonement (2007).

    Saoirse Ronan is one to watch, and she boasts an Oscar nomination with this performance, but I just wanted a little more from Brooklyn. I wanted to feel the triumph of self-growth, like in An Education, and the ache of separation, like in Like Crazy. To me Brooklyn is a vintage homage of these two movies, but doesn’t quite pack as much punch.

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