- RatedNC16 /GenreDrama, Romance
“The world is a small place,” muses a character in Irish director John Crowley’s gorgeous old-fashioned tale and newly minted Best British Film at this year's BAFTAs, ‘Brooklyn’.
Although that statement might be true for seasoned traveller, the said cannot be the same for shy Irish emigre Ellis (a wonderful Saoirse Ronan) as she steps on to the gangway of a ship bound for America, leaving her fragile mother (Jane Brennan) and loving sister (Fiona Glascott) behind.
For her, the world is just getting bigger.
Like thousands of immigrants before her, Ellis crosses an ocean to start a new life. She takes a room in a New York City boarding house for single women supervised by a stern Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters). But leaving home isn’t easy for her as homesickness kicks in as she tries to cope with her new job in a swish department store.
With a gift for numbers, she goes to night school to learn bookkeeping and then finds love with a kind Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen).
Slowly, she begins to fit in and grow accustomed to her new home’s quirks and pace, guiding other newcomers and helping the less fortunate; that is until her past comes knocking again one day, and she reluctantly leaves – temporarily – to return to Ireland to see her mother.
Expertly directed by Crowley (‘Closed Circuit’) and adapted by Nick Hornby from Colm Toibin's novel, ‘Brooklyn’ is at its centrer a relatable film with universal themes. One that packs an emotional punch in its portrayal of solitude, loss, displacement and reinvention.
BAFTA-winning scribe Hornby (‘About A Boy’) has written a complex love story disguised as an unassuming coming-of-age drama.
The waifish Ronan delivers on the promise she showed in ‘Atonement’, playing a timid, almost hopeless young woman coming to full bloom. Hers is a powerful performance of subtlety. Her expressive face and calm demeanour anchors almost every scene.
Ellis’ new confidence and maturity allows her to see Ireland in a new light and she realises that she can make a life in Ireland, despite promising Tony to return to America. To complicate matters, her mother’s meddling offers her a part-time job and she develops feelings for dashing pub owner Jim (Domnhall Gleeson).
Torn between two countries and two men. Ellis must choose. But ultimately what she must choose isn’t the right man, but the right life – one filled with uncertainty, yet filled with possibilities or one that is familiar and comfortable. And this for a woman who, a few of years earlier, didn’t even know there was a choice.
Filled with romance, hope and nostalgia, ‘Brooklyn’ is a graceful story that evokes the Golden Age of Hollywood. What is impressive also is the filmmakers’ discipline in handling such poignant and emotional material.