John Crowley and Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín novel Brooklyn is a thing of beauty. Epic in terms of romance, polished with extraordinary lighting and framing, whisks the viewer away to a terrifying and exciting period. Fox Searchlight hopes to repeat its success last year by having the biggest and best-looking independent film in the awards race. Gorgeous from the opening shot to the final scene, Brooklyn’s secret weapon is the transcendent performance by Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Hanna). One of the season’s true epic romances (and not just between people), Brooklyn has all the right stuff to be recognized in multiple awards season categories.

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Eilis left her small Irish town to go to the big world of America in 1952. There was no promise of a prosperous life back home. Her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) helped secure a boarding house and employment among the flourishing Irish immigrants in Brooklyn. Eilis could have coined the phrase “fresh off the boat” with her naiveté about the rest of the world. However, a quick study, strong-willed and thoughtful, and after a few months, she meets a young Italian plumber named Tony. Her letters back home to Rose and her mother change from longing to promising and cheerful. Bad news from Ireland beckons her return, and when she makes the long journey home to visit, she finds things changed and her heart torn between the two countries.

Ronan delivers a benchmark performance that will stand very tall among the best of the year.

The crew on Brooklyn excels at transporting the viewer into the period, not just with the award-worthy costumes or glossy set decoration; it’s more than that. Everything happens for the first time with Eilis without being sentimental or elementary. Often, the camera takes long pauses just to explore the porcelain-like face of Ronan, who projects feelings without words and can cry streaming tears on command. It would be difficult to find a performance in Ronan’s extensive career where her talents are not on full display, but this is a benchmark performance that will stand very tall among the best of the year. Irish American herself, Ronan dissolves into the role so well, as if it were written for her.

Julie Walters (Harry Potter, Paddington) is a scene stealer among the supporting performances and much of the film’s comedic effect. Newcomer Emory Cohen (The Gambler, A Place Beyond the Pines) is also startlingly refreshing. What begins much like Marion Cotillard’s journey to America in The Immigrant is very different in style, presentation, and genre. In a scene where Eilis and boyfriend Tony (Cohen) visit Coney Island for the first time, the entire frame looks like a yesteryear postcard with stunning pastel colors. Filled with genuine moments of laughter, heartbreak, and swoon, Brooklyn is one of the best films of 2015 because of its conversation about the definition of home and the artistry it displays.

Final Thought

An emotionally cultivating piece of cinema that includes one of the year’s most breathtaking performances.


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