Brooklyn Review: A Tale of Two Countries

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters

Please note, this review contains minor spoilers.

The Overview

Irish girl, Éilis (Ronan), leaves the comfort of her small town in Ireland to start a new life in New York. She meets charming Italian-American, Tony (Cohen), and quickly falls in love. When a tragic event calls her back home, she is torn between two lives and two loves, and must follow her heart to find out the true meaning of “home”.

The Good

Brooklyn is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It floats along at a dreamy pace, filled with pastel colours, vintage styling and soft gentle music. It is 1 hour and 40 minutes of pure picture-perfect escapism that beautifully conveys the desire to be anywhere else but home, but also not bearing to be away from it. It is a simple story of the hope for something more, but also the struggle of leaving things behind.

The cast are fantastic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Saoirse Ronan received some recognition come awards season. She is a revelation; utterly charming and breathtakingly beautiful. It is an honest and emotional performance, made even more touching by the personal ties it has to this young actress. Ronan’s parents moved from Ireland to New York in the 80’s before moving back home after she was born; she grew up hearing the stories of what it was like for them to leave their lives behind for the Big City. When her acting career took off, she too left home to move to New York. It is no wonder Ronan is able to play this role with such heartfelt honesty, bringing realism and character to this old-fashioned fairy tale of love and family.  

The supporting cast are also excellent. Julie Walters is a particular highlight as the matriarchal Mrs Kehoe, who takes in the young girls that move to Brooklyn, and makes them feel at home. An Irish, god-fearing woman, she provides a home away from home for Éilis, and their relationship is lovely to watch.

In a film with such strong female characters, both Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson do an excellent job as Éilis’ love interests; Cohen in particular, is very good as the hopeless romantic, Tony, who Éilis falls for when she first moves to Brooklyn. Jim Broadbent is also great in the small but important role as the kindly Father Flood, who like Mrs Kehoe, makes Éilis feel at home.

The Bad

There really isn’t much to fault here, but there was one thing I didn’t like. Slight spoiler alert warning so maybe just skim over the next paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers completely!

I would have liked to have heard what Éilis said in her letter to Jim (Gleeson). She obviously cared for him deeply, and I didn’t like that their parting had so many things left unsaid. Whilst her heart was always elsewhere, it left their relationship on a slightly sour note. That being said, I liked that there wasn’t an unnecessarily over the top and emotional farewell, but even just a snippet of what the letter said would have left a better taste. After all, it was nothing to do with him that made Éilis leave.  

Whilst I liked Emory Cohen as Tony, I do feel the general Italian-American portrayal is just bordering on the stereotypical, most noticeably in the scene where he introduces Éilis to his family. However it could have been a lot worse, so I won’t complain too much!

The Verdict

I saw this movie and you should too. I truly lost myself in this beautiful film, and was swept away by the wonderful acting performances, the heart-wrenching storyline and it’s picturesque cinematography. It is sweet without being unnecessarily saccharine, and emotional without being melodramatic. Even without the romantic plot, is a lovely tale of leaving home, growing up and finding yourself. As already mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised if this received some Oscar nods, so make sure you catch it whilst you still can!

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.

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