An exquisite treat that excels on all levels, Brooklyn is a multi-layered masterpiece that easily stands out as one of the strongest films of 2015 and must-experience films this decade.
With one eye looking forward to a world of possibilities as an immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn and another on her mother and sister (Fiona Glascott) left behind in Ireland, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is uncertain what lies ahead for her.
Ronan delivers a brilliant performance as a woman discovering herself and her purpose. Ronan gives Eilis a sense of empowerment, vulnerability and inner strength that’s inspiring.
Eilis is put up in a women’s boarding home run by Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters) and set up with a job at a department store. Initially, the adjustment period is taxing as letters from home leave Eilis bawling and nearly inconsolable. With the help of a strong support system including her store manager Miss Fortini (Jessica Pare) and Father Flood (Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas), Eilis starts to get more comfortable to her new life.
But it’s not until she meets nice guy Tony (Emory Cohen) that Eilis fully comes to appreciate all the big city has to offer. Their relationship is tender, sweet, refreshingly innocent and thanks to Ronan and Cohen’s chemistry, fully engaging. It’s the rare romance where it’s too good to be true, but I found myself hoping every moment it was for their sake. As their courtship progresses, responsibilities back home force Eilis to return to Ireland.
Eilis quickly fits back into the flow of a less eventful life. She’s hanging out with her best friend Nancy while finding the advances of dashing suitor Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina) not all that unwelcome while Tony faithfully writes from New York. Soon Eilis is forced to decide which life she truly wishes to pursue.
Adapting Colm Toibin’s novel, screenwriter Nick Hornby (Wild) doesn’t rely on cheap cinematic cliches for dramatic effect. Either Tony or Jim would be a smart choice. Neither suddenly makes the decision easy by abruptly becoming a hard-drinking womanizer, but Eilis’ choice is about more than a relationship — it’s about the direction she wants to take her life.
Conflicts and difficult choices develop naturally and play out in an organic fashion that don’t feel manipulated for the sake of forced tension.
There’s no villainous characters set on making Eilis’ life hell. Conversely, the supporting cast from the fellow borders at the Kehoe home to Tony’s family are top to bottom enjoyable. The film could have easily focused on any of these subsets of Eilis’ life and been just as entertaining. There’s not a weak link among the cast and while the ensemble isn’t as flashy as some other award contenders, their efforts shouldn’t be overlooked.
Director John Crowley lays the film out so smoothly that it feels more like a glimpse into the past than a movie made in 2015. There’s a classic, vintage style of filmmaking evident in every scene untainted by modern movies crammed with sarcasm and cynicism. Brooklyn is one of those films that makes you believe in real love again.
Yves Bélanger’s cinematography offers a warm, nostalgic visual sense of warmth with some beautiful landscapes and eye-pleasing backdrops while Michael Brook’s understated score lends just the right amount of class and elegance.
Even with films I’ve strongly enjoyed this year, there’s a few minor issues I’m fine ignoring, but Brooklyn doesn’t require grading on a curve. Movies this charming don’t come around nearly often enough as they should but it helps make gems like Brooklyn shine all the brighter.
Rating: 10 out of 10