Brooklyn (2015) Directed by John Crowley. With Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent.
Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s original novel by screenwriter Nick Hornby, the multi-award winning Brooklyn is a torn-between-two-worlds romantic-drama about Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant living in a New York boarding house, faced with a difficult choice when home beckons, but not before she finds love with Tony (Emory Cohen) a kindly young man with grand aspirations of making a life in the land of opportunity.
So far, Oscar hasn’t come calling for Canadian cinematographer Yves Bélanger, who adds Brooklyn to a fine C.V including Dallas Buyers Club and Wild. His handsome work enhances the eye-catching nature of 1950’s New York, deftly juxtaposing it against the more saturnine tone of ’50’s Ireland – the quaint nostalgia of a summer day out at Coney Island vs the windswept, empty sands of Irish coastline.
As Eilis, Saoirse Ronan received an astounding 51 award nominations. It’s a seamlessly open-hearted performance of natural poise and intelligence, played with convincing measures of strength and vulnerability as the camera lovingly unveils an inner beauty shining through Ronan’s captivating eyes. Ronan is surrounded by a tremendous cast – Emory Cohen’s amiability is a surprise, next to the assured, good-natured presence of Jim Broadbent, weighted nicely alongside an affectionately tenacious Julie Walters and host of lively supporting performances that accompany a sense of family.
If there’s a slight distraction, it comes in the form of a burgeoning relationship between Eilis and Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) two-thirds in. Somehow, it doesn’t feel weighty enough cause Eilis a moment of pause. To me, and in the faintest way, the relationship feels ever-so-slightly forged. That said, given the frankly sublime quality of everything else, what ought to be narratively problematic only feels like a small niggle.
Under John Crowley’s careful direction, Brooklyn is a touching study of happiness by way of sadness, which is stated in Michael Brook’s emotive music, pairing the melancholic warmth of settling down against the wide-open promise of discovery. The rich photography provides a striking canvas for Saoirse Ronan’s enchanting central performance. 4/5