Brooklyn centres around Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman during the early 1950s, who has the opportunity to leave her life with minimal prospects in County Wexford and travel to the other side of the Atlantic to live in New York, where she hopes to find the life she longs for. Leaving her elder sister and Mother behind, she endures a treacherous journey to her new home and then must overcome crippling homesickness.
Living in a boarding house run by the hilariously religious Ma Kehoe (Julie Walters) and with the help of her sponsor, local priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) she begins to adapt to her new surroundings. However, it is when she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a young Italian man at a local dance that she really starts to feel truly home. As their relationship blossoms and Eilis becomes more comfortable in her new surroundings, an unfortunate event forces her to travel back to Ireland and it is during her stay that she is set up with eligible bachelor Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) and offered the job which she has always desired.
It could have been so easy to have made Brooklyn appear as nothing more than a glorified ITV drama (and let’s face it, nobody wants that), but luckily for us, with director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby, we’re in tremendously talented hands. Made with a very modest budget of just $10 million, the film looks sublime, the locations are stunning, the costumes are elegant and the cast simply soar.
Having viewed the trailer beforehand I was apprehensive that I was to be subjected a very vanilla film, and yes, there is nothing here that will change the cinematic world, but it is so sublimely executed that if it is vanilla, we’re talking the best John Lewis has to offer, not that lower-end ‘essence of’ stuff you find in rubbish ice-cream.
From the scene where Eilis leaves her family by boat as they wave her off from the shore to her arrival in New York, which has a very ‘Dorothy landing in Oz’ feel about it, to the reading of letters sent from home amongst many other moments, the audience is reminded just how powerful of a tool cinema can be. Saoirse Ronan gives the best onscreen performance of the year thus far, effortlessly displaying a magnitude of emotions.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a teary chap but this film got me right in the feels on three separate occasions. Definitely catch it at the cinema as the sweeping landscapes of Ireland and the enormity of New York gloriously enhance the magnitude of the decision Eilis has to make in the final act.
You’ll laugh, cry and grip your seat. A human story with real heart, surely worthy of award recognition in numerous categories. You heard it here first.
Brooklyn is now showing at FACT. Click here to book your tickets. Want to hear more from Gary? Check out his video review for the Film Book Club.