“Brooklyn” is one of those rare films nowadays that doesn’t rely on flashy visuals or a complicated plot, and instead touches you with its honest examination of human nature.
Set in the early 1950s, Eilis Lacey is offered a chance to immigrate from her small town in Ireland to the bustling Brooklyn, New York. While attending college and working part time, she must overcome cultural differences and unimaginable homesickness. Her luck takes a turn, though, when she meets Tony, a bold young Italian man with whom she quickly falls in love.
Without question, Saoirse Ronan gave the performance of her career in her portrayal of Eilis. She had a quiet strength about her, standing out in a crowded room even when her character was timid and unsure, which is a difficult detail to pull off. Eilis was a heroine you couldn’t help but root for. You watched her evolve from someone reserved and unsure into an adult capable of chatting with strangers and confidently pursuing her own path in life.
Emory Cohen’s performance as Tony was adorable and oozing with charisma. It’s safe to say that I fell in love a little with Tony. He was an unapologetic romantic always planning for the future, and he respected Eilis’s independence. He wasn’t always the smoothest talker, but he made for a great catalyst to the movie. Domhnall Gleeson (of recent “Star Wars” and “Ex Machina” fame), too, brought a lot to the story. I won’t say what part he plays for the sake of avoiding spoilers, but he brought to the table an understatedly charming performance. The cast of this movie was just wonderful as a whole, but these three were the MVPs.
The aspect I’m often most critical of in period pieces is the cinematography. Too many times in films scenes feel out of place and fail to fully immerse us in the time period. If it looks obviously like a series of set pieces or too crisp and modern, the director has failed, but this is where “Brooklyn” won out. There are two important scenes in which Eilis visits an Irish beach and Coney Island, and the way that they’re shot convey just how vastly different – not only in regards to culture and location, but also thematic tone – the two are. Director John Crowley took us gently back in time and across oceans, and he did a damn fine job of it.
The best word one could choose to describe this film is “lovely.” It’s no wonder this was Oscar nominated. “Brooklyn” is a sweet coming of age story widely accessible to the masses because of its down-to-earth lead actress and simple, sweet narrative. It is a treasure of a love story that is grin-inducing and pleasing to the eye. If you can see only one Oscar contender playing at your local theater, “Brooklyn” is the ticket to buy.