You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie among this year’s Academy Award nominees that is more heartfelt than “Brooklyn.” Directed by John Crowley and based on a novel by Colm Toibin (Nick Hornby’s screenplay derived from it is nominated for an Oscar as well) it’s a simple story that relies more on feeling than plot to get its message across. And it works beautifully.
Saoirse Ronan (nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress) stars in the film as Eilis, a young girl in 1950s Ireland who immigrates to Brooklyn, New York for better opportunities. From her rough voyage on a ship across the Atlantic to her job at a big department store, Eilis feels homesick and out of place—that is, until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), an Italian boy who takes an instant liking to her. As Eilis spends more and more time with Tony, she begins to feel more at home in Brooklyn. But a family emergency calls her home to Ireland, where things are different now. There are job opportunities that weren’t there before, as well as Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), a young Irish man from her village with good prospects who Eilis also finds herself falling for.
Ronan, who was nominated for her first Academy Award at the age of thirteen for Atonement and has worked steadily in films since then, delivers her most powerful performance to date in “Brooklyn.” Her character develops radically throughout the film, from timid and sad to happy to strong and confident, and Ronan nails it at every turn. Often, she doesn’t even have to speak; you know how Eilis is feeling just from what she isn’t saying. The supporting cast is strong as well. Cohen is charming as Tony, while Gleeson doesn’t have much actual dialogue in the film, but his feelings are evident just by the little looks he steals at Eilis. Jim Broadbend has a small role as Father Flood, the Brooklyn pastor who helps bring Eilis to Brooklyn and remains her supporter while there, and Julie Waters steals every scene she’s in as Mrs. Keogh, the landlady of the boarding house where Eilis lives in Brooklyn with a group of other young ladies (also hilarious are Eve Macklin and Emily Bett Rickards as a pair of gossipy tenants).
“Brooklyn” has nostalgic feel to it, and not just because it is set in the 50s. The cinematography is beautiful, and really does transport the audience to that place and time. The colors in Ireland are drab in dreary, but when the story moves to Brooklyn, the colors of the settings and costumes are vibrant, almost reminiscent of an old Technicolor film.
But the thing that “Brooklyn” really gets right, the thing that will keep audiences thinking about it long after watching it, is less tangible. It’s that ambiguous feeling of wanting to travel to new places, but also wanting to be home, as well as that moment you know when a new place that didn’t feel like home before suddenly becomes your new home. It isn’t a sentiment that is specifically stated in the movie, it’s just something you know from the characters. And it’s something that is expressed with such beautifully, heart-wrenching clarity. “Brooklyn” may not be the frontrunner among this year’s Best Picture nominees. It may not be as shocking as “The Revenant” or “Spotlight,” and it may not break new ground the way that “Mad Max: Fury Road” did. But it is the movie that audiences will relate to the most.
Runtime: 111 minutes. Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.
Academy Award nominations for “Brooklyn”:
· Best Picture
· Actress in a Leading Role: Saoirse Ronan
· Writing (adapted screenplay)
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre