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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Movie Review - Brooklyn

Brooklyn (2015)
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Jane Brennan, Fiona Glascott, Jessica Paré, Eva Birthistle, Eileen O'Higgins, Eve Macklin, Emily Bett Rickards, Nora-Jane Noone, and Jenn Murray 
Directed by John Crowley

Brooklyn is a lovely romantic piece that not only takes place in the 1950s, but feels as if it could've been made then, without frills and bells and whistles -- simply a heartwarming story with great performances. Here we have decent, good people trying to earn a decent, good living by doing decent, good things.  It's not always easy for folks, but the story of hard work and perseverance rings true in this story of Irish immigrant Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) as she moves to Brooklyn, New York, to try and better her life. Director John Crowley does a nice job balancing some wonderful comedic moments with an incredibly compelling love story, forgoing flashiness for simplicity thereby allowing screenwriter Nick Hornby's script to really come alive with charming performances from an all-around wonderful acting ensemble.

Leaving behind her mother Mary (Jane Brennan), her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), and her closest friend Nancy (Eileen O'Higgins), young Eilis Lacey decides to take the plunge of many during the 1950s and move from Europe (in this case Ireland) to America.  With the help of Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), an Irish priest living in NYC, Eilis is set up with a job working at a fancy department store under the watch of the tough Miss Fortini (Jessica Paré) and given a place to stay in a small woman's boarding home headed by the hilarious Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters).  Depressed and unable to get out of her funk of homesickness, Eilis has a tough go until she meets the charming and very Italian Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a local dance held by the Catholic Church.  The sensible and considerate Tony slowly begins to soften the hardened exterior of Eilis and the two begin to fall for one another.  Unfortunately, Eilis soon receives word of a life-changing situation in Ireland which makes Eilis question whether her loyalties should lie in her old homeland or her new one.

Anchoring Brooklyn and perhaps the greatest reason for its success is the performance of Saoirse Ronan as Eilis.  I have not been the biggest fan of Ronan in the past.  Looking back over my reviews of some of her works, I've called her "bland," "unemotional," and, perhaps most damning of all, "one of the most overrated actresses working today."  Well, that has changed with Brooklyn.  Here, she's finally given the chance to play an adult facing grown-up issues and she proves to be utterly captivating.  There's a sullenness and solemness at the start of the film as Ronan fully conveys Eilis's fear and trepidation about starting a new life in America.  As the layers of Eilis slowly unfurl, we find ourselves becoming mesmerized by her happiness.  Although the story of Eilis's journey may seem simplistic, Ronan adds depth and substance -- her eyes, her moments of silence, her ever-so-slight reactions say so much here --  creating a character who the audience roots for and fully embraces.  I obviously must change my tune about Ms. Ronan and I can only hope that the success of Brooklyn and the raves she's receiving open the doors for more adult roles in her future.

Ronan is surrounded by an extremely talented ensemble that add so much to the film.  Emory Cohen brings a believable charm and innocence to Tony.  As soon as he appears, the connection between Tony and Eilis is immediately palpable and from that moment on, I couldn't help but find myself grinning whenever the two characters interacted.  Julie Walters is a scene-stealer as a no-nonsense boarding house matron.  There are multiple scenes in Brooklyn that take place around dinner tables -- and all are hilariously wonderful -- but when Walters anchors her scenes, they really take flight and become adorably amusing.  Eve Macklin, Emily Bett Richards, Nora-Jane Noone, and Jenn Murray also take part in a good many of these dinner table discussions that are brought to life by this quartet of ladies who add much exuberance to the film.  Back in Ireland, Jane Brennan and Fiona Glascott are a huge part of the heart of the film as the mother and sister of Eilis who long for her to have a better life, but also want to see her travel an ocean away.  Domhnall Gleeson is also good in a quiet, understated role as a young Irish man who also pines for Eilis.

Although the stunning costume design by Odile Dicks-Mireaux and lovely production design by François Séguin could certainly count as such, there are no bells and whistles here as director John Crowley creates a rather straightforward classic romance.  But it's that word "classic" that's the key here.  Charm, elegance, simplicity -- all descriptors for this wonderful film.  For a film that could've absolutely been made in the era in which it is set, Brooklyn is oddly timely today given the current political landscape, although it is certainly not in any shape or form a political piece.  Instead, it's a romance for the ages that not only gives homage to the immigrants that formed our country, but also honors our country as a whole for the opportunities it can provide if you strive to work hard and be the best you can be.

The RyMickey Rating:  A-

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