A sweeping and soaring romantic epic
Whenever my Grandma watches something she really likes or is moved by she’ll simply say, with her Welsh twang ‘Oooh that’s lovely!’ As soon as the credits starting rolling on Brooklyn I found myself uttering her almost-catchphrase, as the film that had gone on before was one of pure and unadulterated loveliness. With the three charismatic central leads, the countless scene-stealing supporting roles and spectacular scenery, told with such carefully constructed and emotive style, Brooklyn is a shoe-in for the awards season.
In 1952 Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) hands in the notice for her Sunday job at the local shop. She is leaving her small village in Ireland, her home and the only place she has ever known, to move to Brooklyn. On Ellis’ behalf her older, and much- adored older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), wrote to Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) an Irish Catholic Priest living in Brooklyn asking to give Ellis a chance. Flood agrees to sponsor Ellis – paying for her travel, the start of her accommodation and finding her a job – as there are no opportunities for a bright girl like her his offer is a life-line to a new life. The ferry journey to America is hard, the first few weeks in Brooklyn even harder. She feels so homesick she is scared that she is going to die. It does fade however with time and love – in the form of Italian-American plumber Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen). But when tragedy strikes she must return to Ireland. Ellis soon becomes torn between her new life in American and a new life being offered by a possible new love, eligible bachelor Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson). She must choose between both countries, and they both promise.
This film is good. So good in fact that ‘good’ is an inadequate adjective. It’s marvellous. It’s wonderful. It’s exquisite. Few films are this charming: so full of pathos that stimulates both heart and mind. It even appears impossible to think of one negative trait that this film possesses – no fatal Achilles heel is present here. The performances by the entire cast are outstanding, allowing for the creation of an astonishingly well-crafted very real-seeming world.
Each character is three dimensional and rounded, yet this is Ronan’s movie. Her Ellis’ is able to articulate so much with the smallest of expressions – her internal turmoil revealed with looks rather than prosaic audible contemplations. Cohen and Gleeson both hold their own, creating characters that are shown to be equal in terms of romantic possibilities. Often films with a romantic triangle will be unfairly weighted in favour of one of the choices, pushing the audiences favour in one way. This is not true of Brooklyn as the polar opposite men, confident alpha-male Tony and charmingly unassuming Jim both offering lives which could suit Ellis, if only she could work out what it is that she wants.
Set in the 1950s, it is the perfect time capsule movie. The costumes are jaw-droppingly and envy-inducingly gorgeous. The characters are believable for the era, Julie Walters is truly hilarious as the owner of the single women’s boarding house. The music makes the heart-strings pull that much tighter.
The fear of choice, of choosing the road not yet taken, is portrayed tenderly and with nuance. Not a hint of melodrama here. A timeless must-see movie.