Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle


Grade : A- Year : 2015 Director : John Crowley Running Time : 1hr 51min Genre : ,
Movie review score

There are two moments on a boat which chart the emotional development by Eilis, the young woman played by Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn,” that are so simple and direct in the window they give us into the character that it’s hard not to appreciate how graceful director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby, who is adapting a novel by Colm Tóibín, are in their storyteller. Granted, I knew almost immediately during the first scene of Eilis traveling across the seas from Ireland to Brooklyn, where another young Irish woman who is returning to America after a visit home gives her advice for when she steps off the boat, that we might see this type of scene again, but with Eilis giving the advice to a new immigrant to New York, but strong storytelling isn’t just about giving us unexpected twists; it’s also about making the obvious work through simple gestures that engage us fully in the narrative. In “Brooklyn,” this works because Crowley and Hornby (the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy, as well as the screenwriter of “Wild” and “An Education”) have shown us the struggle within Eilis as she is pulled in two directions in her life- one towards a new and exciting life she has started to build for herself in America, one towards a safe and familiar life with her lifelong friends and family in Ireland- and we understand the choice she has made, and why it was important to make. It also works thanks to the striking, soulful work by Ronan, who has been a strong presence in movies is a variety of movies since her breakthrough in 2007’s “Atonement,” of which “Hanna,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Lovely Bones” are the standouts. She is still only 21 years old, which is profoundly hard to believe, because her skills as a performer suggest someone twice her age. There is a wisdom and intelligence that shines through in her work as Eilis that is impossible to teach, and will just happen naturally. We see her excitement, and hesitation, as she makes the journey to America, and watch as she tries to assimilate into life in Brooklyn. We see as she begins a relationship with Tony, an young Italian plumber (played by Emory Cohen), that she will keep secret when she goes home to Ireland after her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) dies unexpectedly, leaving their mother (Jane Brennan) alone. While home, she feels the pull of her homeland, reluctantly, but what are we to make when we see she hasn’t been reading Tony’s letters to her? Or the connection she makes with a friend (played by Domhnall Gleeson) of her best friend’s so-to-be husband? We see the dilemma on her face, and Ronan makes it a palpable one in a richly rewarding performance that gets you right in the heart. We may not all be like Eilis, but we understand her journey, and it makes “Brooklyn” an emotional experience, regardless of who you are.

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