“Brooklyn,” a thoroughly engaging new drama, is exactly the kind of film that Hollywood should make on a regular basis. Director John Crowley (“Intermission”) and his talented cast tell the story of a young woman rediscovering herself in a land far from home. It’s a simple and timeless story of love and family that really hits home.
The amazing Saoirse Ronan stars as Eilis, an Irish girl who can’t find a career in her native Ireland. Thanks to a priest in America (Jim Broadbent), Eilis makes the long journey to New York where a new job and life await her. Unfortunately, her absence puts more pressure on her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), the only one at home caring for their mother.
Homesick at first, Eilis settles in and meets an Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen). Their relationship changes the young girl’s perspective about life in America. Though she loves Brooklyn and her boyfriend, she still has her roots in Ireland and cannot ignore these.
In her career, Saoirse Ronan has accumulated an impressive list of credits, with “Brooklyn” being her finest performance to date. The 21-year-old actress appeared in critically-acclaimed pieces such as “Atonement” and science fiction fare like “City of Ember” and “The Host.” Her work in “Brooklyn” also has been honored with a Golden Globe nomination.
Ronan takes her character on a journey from quiet, obedient girl to confident young woman. She elicits tears and laughter from the audience while dealing with both seasickness and an aching heart. Her relationship with Tony feels authentic and real, especially when she has dinner with his family for the first time.
Julie Walters has less screen time than Ronan, but she makes quite an impression as Mrs. Kehoe, the woman who runs a Brooklyn boardinghouse for young women. As the no-nonsense landlady, Walters is as impressive here as she was in the “Harry Potter” franchise. She obviously admires and cares for her residents, but she won’t brook any nonsense.
As the men who love Eilis, Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen turn in fine performances as well. Cohen brings a good-hearted sensibility to Tony, the Brooklyn boy who adores the Irish immigrant and would do anything for her. Gleeson’s Jim Farrell represents home and a comfortable life back in Ireland, something Eilis finds very tempting.
Though it lacks expensive special effects and robots, “Brooklyn” is an exceptional movie and one that could represent itself quite well during awards season. More films should embrace this level of quality and storytelling.
“Brooklyn,” rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language, currently is playing in limited release.