It’ll make you feel wretched, and then move on to somebody else.”
This isn’t Jay-Z’s Brooklyn, but it is still Brooklyn. In 1952, Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), lives in a small town in the country of Ireland with mother and sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott). While she isn’t “wasting away” in Ireland, she gets the feeling she could be doing more with her life, and so does Rose, which is why she has met worked with a priest in the United States to bring Ellis to Brooklyn. New York.
Homesickness and literal sickness arrive the minute Ellis sets sail to America. It’s a rough start, and she does question early whether the right decision was made. But, in the form of Italian immigrant Tony (Emory Cohen), her situation begins to become better. But, home is always where the heart remains, even as things improve.
While the adaptation of novels can and have been transferred with success to the silver screen experience, a lot of times, they can be some combination of lazy, incoherent, dull, and overall missing some key elements that made the novel a good piece of literature. Not so with Brooklyn. Like most of the adapted films yours truly has watched, I haven’t the opportunity, (read: desire), to read the original source material, but I don’t think it matters here. Brooklyn is a wonderful film, adaptation or otherwise.
The magic in Brooklyn starts with the screenplay, written by Nick Hornby. Simultaneously, it is both simple in nature and fairly layered and complex, with the only issue had on this end being the dinner table humor, which just didn’t always hit for me. The story is a romance, both of the traditional, micro level, and the non-traditional, macro level. Both aspects are written soundly, but its the story of the homeland vs the “newland” that really pulls everything together, It works, because there is real conflict!
The city of Brooklyn is shown to be a place of great opportunity, but Hornby and director John Crowley (True Detective season 2) also make it clear that there is much to be lost in Ireland as well. It’s not some slummy, insufferable place that Ellis has to get out from; its a rather beautiful place that has its pluses and minuses, just like Brooklyn. It’s simple, but showing that no one city/life is indisputably better than the other really builds the emotional drama that drives the last half to third of Brooklyn.
Again, this worldly romance between Ireland and Brooklyn is wonderful and fits in with the traditional romance, but it is the traditional romance that serves as the internal core of Brooklyn. This is where the movie could have become extremely sappy and soapy, but credit to writer, director, and acting cast for refusing to let this happen. Hornby and Crowley do put their actors in great positions to succeed, but ultimately, those actors and actresses have to deliver…and they all do, but no one more so than Saoirse Ronan. Ronan is able to says a lot without every saying a peep sometimes. She has this face that is both expressionless and full of expression at the same time. For lack of better description, she’s mesmerizing, and gives her Ellis character that much more in the way of feeling like a real person.
She also possesses amazing chemistry with everyone in the movie, and seems to develop it within seconds. Her scenes with Emory Cohen are touching, as are those with Domhall Gleeson. Both of these guys, along with others, are great additions to Brooklyn who bring talent, but Ronan is the focal point. And she should be here. Hard not to see major nominations coming her way.
Straightforward, yet elegant and authentic, Brooklyn is a great watch that, despite its obvious wide release timeframe, doesn’t feel award-bating or overly dramatic at all. The voyage to Brooklyn is one that absolutely should be taken.
Photo credits go to theguardian.com, citybeat.com, and entertainmentweekly.com.
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