Movie Review: BROOKLYN
An Age of Innocence Tested
It’s the 1950’s and a young Irish Lass, Eilis, played with luminosity by Saoirse Ronan leaves her mother and sister in Ireland to pursue life in the Irish section of Brooklyn. Fighting back homesickness and fear of the unknown, Eilis navigates seasickness, Mrs. Keogh’s women’s boarding house with assorted residents (Julie Walters in top form as Mrs. Keogh) and a salesgirls job arranged by a benevolent Irish Catholic priest (a jolly and deeply humane Jim Broadbent) and overseen by a caring and classy Jessica Paré (of Mad Men fame).
Enter Tony, an Italian American plumber from the neighboring Italian quarter whose sweet and tender disposition and attentiveness to Eilis is remarkably portrayed by Emory Cohen. The chemistry between these two is utterly captivating. Watching so honest, so genuine an interplay between the two almost-soon-to-be-maybe lovers is heartbreakingly beautiful. Anyone with any dating history is bound to recollect the joys and vulnerabilities of his or her own early romance. If you have experienced them, you may find yourself shedding a tear of gratitude for those blessed early encounters. If not, you might sigh deeply over what might have been. Romanticized as they are, these two young people are not perfect, but I’ll let you enjoy witnessing their imperfections for yourselves. That’s part of the fun.
The film’s third act teeters nervously on a potential fall from grace both before and during Eilis returns to Ireland. Once back in her homeland, she finds herself torn between Tony (who represents, among other things, the life she’s begun in Brooklyn) and the familiarity of her home turf. Family and friends attend to her homecoming with considerable fanfare and Eilis finds herself a sudden celebrity on account of her new, confident persona and Americanized sensibilities. See how beautifully Ms. Ronan conveys her enjoyment of her new-found acceptance from people who hadn’t paid much attention to her before. Enjoy and empathize as you watch Eilis basking in the esteem of others, toying with the advances of a never-would-have-been—otherwise potential flame (Domhnall Gleeson, absolutely right!) as she negotiates allures and temptations she may never have imagined. Ms. Ronan’s performance takes your breath away.
But, in truth, all the actors offer outstanding performances. There is not a fake or phony word or expression to be found. You’ll also enjoy Eilis’s relationships with her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott also perfect!) and their mother (Jane Brennan, excellent) that not only justify Eilis’s homesickness but add layers of meaning about family and the importance of intimate relationships in every aspect of life. To all this, I must add that John Crowley’s direction is, well, impeccable and cinematographer Yves Bélanger creates just the right atmosphere in both Brooklyn and Irish locales. I urge you all to take a trip to Brooklyn.