In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) has to choose between two men and two countries.
Saoirse Ronan gives an incredible and likely award winning performance in this beautiful adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel of the same name. The story of Brooklyn is not particularly unique, with Ronan’s Eilis transporting herself from the familiar territory of 1950s Ireland to an entirely new world altogether in Brooklyn New York, struggling with the pain of homesickness as well as the guilt of happiness in her new found life across the pond.
The emotional themes of a homesick immigrant dominates the film and certainly succeeds in leaving audiences in tears as Ronan brings an utterly compelling role to life. Her strength and the maturity that she brings to the role just proves even further that she is without a doubt one of the finest actresses of her generation.
Ronan is aided by a strong supporting cast including Julie Walters, who appears in some of the films lighter moments as Eilis’ sharp tongued boardinghouse owner Mrs. Kehoe, producing instantly memorable dinner scenes. Jim Broadbent, meanwhile brings a heartwarming sense of calm during some of the more heartbreaking scenes as Eilis’ benefactor, Father Flood.
At its center Brooklyn is a love story, particularly held together by both Ronan and Emory Cohen as the Brooklyn side of a trans-Atlantic love triangle . Cohen brings a touch of class and romance to the story which, along with his seamless chemistry with Ronan, makes their story instantly believable.
Unfortunately the other side of this love triangle played by Domhnall Gleeson feels more like a third wheel. Gleeson plays Jim Farrell, a romantic complication who appears in the films latter half after a tragedy brings Eilis back home. Feeling very shoehorned in as one of the ways in which Eilis’ life is so easily set up to continue back in Ireland along with a job and her old home. Gleeson’s performance is just too quiet to feel like a true equal to the love Eilis finds in America. While the rest of the temptation of familiarity with her old life is easy to understand, Jim’s addition feels underdeveloped and too quickly added in. Perhaps if he’d had some focus in the films opening, it may have worked better.
The Ugly Truth
Brooklyn is a beautifully shot and wonderfully told tale of what it is to be homesick and the temptation to slip back into familiarity at the risk of losing a more exciting life. Saoirse Ronan brings an incredible performance along with a strong supporting cast. However when the setting returns to Ireland, the final act feels less convincingly emotionally conflicted than it clearly intends to be.
Review by Johnny Ellis