Movie Review: Brooklyn
PG-13 | 111 min
Director: John Crowley
Writers: Nick Hornby (screenplay), Colm Tóibín (novel)
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson
by Jason Koenigsberg
For the most part, the majority of Brooklyn feels like Oscar bait, one of those films put on this Earth to sweep the BAFTA’s and win or at least earn several Academy Awards. That being said, that does not mean that it is by any means a bad picture, in fact it is often exquisite. Director John Crowley has some exceptional scene composition throughout allowing moments on screen to speak volumes without any dialogue, and his framing of the actors is very well done. The dialogue itself it also good with a script by Nick Hornby, known mostly for writing his novels from the male point of view on love and relationships with High Fidelity and About a Boy, it was very interesting to see him pen a screenplay not based on one of his novels and with a woman at the center of the story.
The opening shot is a dark street in Ireland with a misty drizzle coming down over some streetlights as if to say that we are starting off in the dark and that our main character Eilis Lacey (played by Saorise Ronan) is in the dark but hints that soon, that will all change. The early scenes in Ireland are basically about a young woman wanting more out of life and she gets a chance to move to America.
Brooklyn tries to capture the immigrant experience from the previous century and has scenes on Ellis Island that are reminiscent of the iconic moments from The Godfather Part II (1974), however it takes place many years after Vito Andolini of Corleone came to America. It was very clever how they revealed the year the story was in by characters talking about seeing the movie The Quiet Man which takes place in Ireland and was released in 1952.
One of the aspects that stood out the most in Brooklyn is the color scheme. The scenes in Ireland are deliberately photographed as being drab with muted greens, browns and yellows. When we finally see red, it is a bright crimson colored coat worn by a woman that helps our main character during her journey to America. Once she arrives in New York City and settles at a boarding house in Brooklyn the colors become much brighter and there are more vibrant greens and blues. This color scheme continues throughout the film with shades of green being a predominant color in a lot of scenes and red standing out because it is sparsely used.
Trouble occurs in the second act when a family emergency strikes and Eilis has to decide whether to stay in Brooklyn where she has started to make a nice life for herself, or go back to Ireland. Not revealing any plot points but this is where her character becomes much more three dimensional and easy to relate to because it is written and acted in such a mature fashion.
Brooklyn is also an ode to the working class, the immigrants that came to this country and built the bridges, tunnels and skyscrapers of New York City and how immigration made us the country we are today. Also notable was how it dealt with homesickness and the always reliable Jim Broadbent has a great small role as a warm and accommodating Irish priest who emigrated to America and explains that homesickness is like any other illness, it eventually gets passed on to someone else and goes away. The film does move at a snails pace and it can be predictable at times but overall Brooklyn is worth the price of admission.
Ultimately,Brooklyn is a story about the passion of the heart and the confusion that love can cause when you are pulled in different directions across an ocean. It is a love story from the female perspective but it is intelligently written, directed and acted. Saoirse Ronan does a very good job with her character making a slow transition from a timid Irish girl to a more confident American young woman. The change is gradual throughout the course of the film with clues from her hair, make-up and costumes, but Ronan’s acting and mannerisms really make her character come to life. Despite its slow editing and predictable story Brooklyn features some award worthy aspects and has more than enough good qualities to warrant a recommendation.