Immigrants have been coming to America for hundreds of years. I mean, it was built and powered by immigrants, but what of first generation immigrants? Those who come from afar and remain torn between here and there. This is what Brooklyn is all about, that hard journey and finding a home. Filled with beautiful cinematography and outstanding performances, the film works on every level.
Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is a young woman who works a lousy 2-hour job on Sundays, run by a lousy boss. She can’t find a job and is down and out about her future in Ireland. But when an Irish pastor based in Brooklyn guarantees her entry into the country, a job, and a room in an all girl’s boarding house (run by the wonderful Julie Walters), Eilis leaves her sister, mother, and the only home she’s ever known to come to America for a new opportunity. For months, she’s homesick and miserable until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen) who makes her feel like America could be home. When Eilis receives devastating news from home, she returns and is immediately torn between two places who now have a place in her heart.
Brooklyn is the kind of film that many will find themselves falling in love with. The cinematography alone is gorgeous. The setting, hair, makeup, and costumes are true to its time period, which takes place in the ’50s. Director John Crowley breathes an air of confidence into the film, yet the story is gentle, emotional, and told as though through brushstrokes of a beautiful painting. Crowley really knows how to set the scene and from the get go doesn’t waste any time but quickly jettisons us to Eilis’s world.
Adapted from the book of the same name, Crowley uses Nick Hornby’s screenplay and manages to take a story we’ve heard before but tell it so well that he’s still able to surprise the audience by Eilis’s actions. We see every moment through her eyes. Every heartbreak, all the happiness, the misery, and everything in between. Eilis’s depth and emotional range are credited to the fantastic Saoirse Ronan who never disappoints. She’s grown into an actress with a wide range and is able to take us on her character’s journey very expressively and profoundly. Her character is thought-provoking,
Emory Cohen as Tony is charming and sweet, a youthful energy always following him from scene to scene. He’s honest and confident in certain things that Eilis isn’t quite certain of yet. His innocence and hope for the future balance out Eilis’s unsettled feelings and they make for a cute couple. The entire supporting cast, from Julie Walters (who is the main source of the film’s comedic moments), Jim Broadbent, and Domhnall Gleeson all play their parts in Eilis’s life and only add to it and aren’t just there to make appearances without reason. They are important roles and are also people Eilis couldn’t have made decisions without in some way.
The emotion behind the work is genuine, every scene transitioning smoothly and coherently into the next, Eilis’s story weaving in and out like gently lapping waves. This is the kind of film that should garner awards and the kind of filmmaking many only ever dream of doing. It’s depth transcends its plot and allows the story and its lead character to grow, learn, and mature from the first scene right until the very end.
There are no real words to describe how moving and emotionally satisfying this story is. Brooklyn has an enormous amount of depth. The script is well written and well acted, and is filled with just the right balance of riveting drama and a sense of humor (the boarding house scenes come to mind first). Director John Crowley has created a beautiful and touching film that works on every level and one of the best films at the Sundance Film Festival this year.