Beautifully crafted, with stunning scenes on the Irish coast and in historic New York, director John Crowley’s Brooklyn is a pleasure to watch. A period drama set in the 1950s, the film is a heartfelt romance that leaves viewers with a sense of nostalgia. Brooklyn’s rather simplistic storyline sets it apart from other top films of the year. While some films might have fallen into obscurity with such a simple plot, the masterful acting and exquisite cinematography in Brooklyn enable it to rise above the rest.
Brooklyn follows the story of Irish immigrant Eilis and begins in the small town of Enniscorthy, in southeast Ireland. Eilis cannot find a proper job, her father is dead, her older sister is busy, and her best friend is about to get engaged. Eilis’s sister arranges for her to go to America where she will have a decent job and live in a boarding house. However, once in Brooklyn, Eilis is unable to find her place in the bustling, multicultural city until she meets a handsome Italian plumber, Tony.
Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis with careful subtlety and poise. She possesses both a plainness and an otherworldly beauty with piercing blue-gray eyes that constantly draw attention to her on screen. Never bursting into any dramatic breakdowns or long periods of dialogue, Eilis quietly spellbinds the audience. Every gesture and expression on Ronan’s face further develops her character. She plays Eilis with sincerity and intelligence, and the audience cannot help but root for her. Ronan is able to perfectly capture Eilis’s moments of quiet heartbreak and simple happinesses. She slips into the role of Eilis seamlessly. This role will surely prove to be a standout in Ronan’s career because of her discerning ability to make the audience feel exactly what Eilis is feeling with the perfect amount of subtlety. She brings the audience along for the journey from Ireland to America and back again. Ronan gives a genuine glimpse into the traumas and triumphs that come with life’s changes.
The chemistry between Ronan and Emory Cohen’s Tony is palpable and electric. Their love has an old-fashioned feel that makes it seem special and easy. This chemistry is made even more miraculous by the fact that Cohen does not even appear on screen until thirty minutes into the movie. Cohen’s tender and ardent portrayal of Tony does not disappoint and makes the romance seem wholly genuine. Domnhall Gleeson comfortably slides into his role as Tony’s competition back in Ireland. Never failing to satisfy audiences, Gleeson portrays the sweet and eager Jim Farrell. Eilis is more worldly and mature when she returns to Ireland, and she and the tall, successful Jim seem to be the perfect match. His love for Eilis seems pure and natural although somewhat hurried in the last half of the film, as the narrative rushes towards its conclusion.
The story might seem cliched at times, especially with the presence of a love triangle, but Ronan and her fellow actors make this trope easy to swallow. Moreover, the insertions of comedic relief will not fail to make one smile. Whether it is Tony’s little brother blurting out that Italians do not like Irish people or Tony swinging around a lamppost in the park, the joy these moments bring to Eilis will amuse the audience over and over again.
A coming of age story at its heart, Brooklyn has something for everyone. Brooklyn in the 1950s seems to hold limitless opportunities for those willing to work for it, and makes for a lovely setting with a quaint feel. Although sweet and uplifting as a whole, the film does delve into the experiences of homesickness and grief. It is these experiences that catapult Eilis from a naive Irish girl into a poised young woman. Each emotional experience is felt deeply without being corny, giving the film a poignant and moving atmosphere. Although by no means an intense movie, Brooklyn possesses a subtle brilliance and pure simplicity that will make it a romantic classic for years to come.