Film Review: Brooklyn

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan; Domhnall Gleeson; Emory Cohen



By Liam Shaw

John Crowley’s elegant period drama takes place in the 1950s, giving an honest, yet somewhat optimistic perspective on the immigrant experience of a young woman. While the film does not primarily concern itself with historical accuracy, its depictions of universal themes such as homesickness, love and loss offer the modern audience a spellbinding and heartfelt viewing experience that will resonate with anyone days after seeing it.

Brooklyn’s plot is very simplistic in nature; a young Irish woman named Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) leaves behind her home for a new life in New York, where she struggles with homesickness and adapting to her new surroundings. However, the transition is soon made easier when she finds love in the form of a young Italian man (Emory Cohen). At first glance, you would think this is one of those film where ‘nothing really happens’, but in fact it is hard not to become invested in this simple story when it has such rich characterisation at its helm. Watching Eilis grow from a shy and somewhat timid girl into a self-assured woman is not only satisfying but makes her eventual struggle all the more compelling when she must choose between ultimately living in America or Ireland.

None of this could have been achieved without the absolutely captivating Saoirse Ronan in the lead role. Appearing in practically every scene, she carries the film like it’s nobody’s business. Crowley often allows the camera to linger on her face for certain scenes, where a single look is worth a thousand words. It is a master class in subtlety as is the film itself. With this subject matter it could have easily delved into melodramatic territory but Crowley allows the story to progress in a way that feels completely organic and never comes across as overwrought or clichéd. Crowley creates exquisite dynamics between his characters, particularly within the relationship between Ronan and Cohen’s characters. Cohen appears to channel a young Marlon Brando and delivers one of the most effortlessly charming performances of the year. Every time he exchanges a look with Ronan it is easy to see he is smitten, and so it is really difficult not to be completely taken by him as he is so endearing. His relationship with Eilis really lifts the tone of the film, with everything from the cinematography to the costumes being made brighter by the pair’s blossoming romance.

With Brooklyn, Crowley has undoubtedly delivered one of best films of 2015 so far. Beautifully acted, photographed and scripted, the film is in no way heavy-handed or forced in its emotional resonance. If there were one word to describe Brooklyn, it would be ‘lovely’; it really is just a lovely film and feels so intimate in all aspects. Its understated grace and old-fashioned charm is very refreshing in an era that thrives on spectacle.

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