Ireland had a big representation at this year’s Academy awards, with directors and actors getting their moment in the spotlight. And “Brooklyn” was one that was part of many of the discussions. So, does it hold up to the high praise it received?
A joint Irish-British produced film, it focuses on the plights of emigration for the Irish during the 1950’s. Ellis (Saoirse Ronan) is given the chance to leave her quiet town and take a ship to America where she might have a better future. She leaves many of her friends behind, and a grieve-stricken family. Upon arriving in New York she decides to take up in a boarding house shared by other Irish emigrants like her. The story follows her struggles to adjust to live in America and earning her living, all the time never forgetting the country she left behind.
I will political once and then put it to bed, but it is worth bringing up how this makes the current migrant crisis in Europe look. The Irish weren’t escaping from the plights of war or persecution, they were simply looking for a life they would never be able to get at home. It is hard to remember that only a few decades ago, this was the only option available for young people in Ireland, and the fact that it is so for other countries today shows how we should probably stop seeing them as intruders.
Now, with that out of the way let us return to the review at hand. This is a Romantic Drama, and once that started to become apparent I was worried that it would turn into a syrupy mess of forced emotions. But happily it doesn’t, this is a very solid and well pieced together script. Saoirse Ronan is on centre stage, and it is kind of amazing to see how far she has come from her early work like “Hanna”. Her character is always evolving during the story – starting off as very homesick and uncertain of the future, to becoming far more confident and at home with her new surroundings. Saorise is a joy to see perform on screen, she hold a lot of gravitas and manages to make what is a simple storyline, very personal and meaningful. Jim Broadbent and Emory Cohen also throw in very good stage-roles too, with the latter as the love interest who is almost always genuinely sweet and charming.
For dramas like these, a lot of the overall effect depends on the costume design, locations, and authenticity to the era. And “Brooklyn” pulls this off very well indeed. The streets and homes in Ireland are spot-on to how they would have looked sixty years ago, and the sprawling scape of New York plays an excellent contrast to the former’s quiet life and look. Fans of period clothing will really enjoy the many costumes here, and the lighting has that old, incandescent luminance to it that bathes everything in a soft glow.
The first hour is probably the most enjoyable as we see the main character evolve and grow used to the new life. If feels very energised without forgetting the simple origins of the Irish characters. The final act is one where I was constantly worrying that the movie would descend to those tired romance cliches and waffle that was just not needed at all. But the finale wraps it all up in a satisfying, almost bitter-sweet kind of way. I was actually quite impressed by that.
I don’t think there are any specific issues I could point out, outside of the fact that the basis of the story is one we’re very familiar to, and so it won’t blow you out of your seat. It just runs along at a steady pace that any age group can keep up with and enjoy, it was definitely made from the start to be a pleasing piece of cinema instead of a bold one. But that’s something I can’t hold against it, it hits the mark that it set out to aim for right in the centre.
“Brooklyn” was a very enjoyable experience, with lots of heart and a properly earned romantic relationship. The many production companies managed to understand the aesthetic the film was going for, and the design and script are up to at the very least, the award-nomination standard. Put simply, it is a nice comfortable film to watch, and one that won’t leave you disappointed.
Thanks for reading!