Brooklyn - film review


★★★★★

Directed by John Crowley

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent

Film review by Chris Olson

Given the current state of gender politics and the discourse which has evolved over the last year, especially in the film industry with many Hollywood names speaking out against inequality in terms of pay and creative opportunities, John Crowley’s film seems to slide in perfectly in the aftermath of a politically powerful film like Suffragette. Brooklyn is led by a central performance, by the incomparable Saoirse Ronan, which is totally self-sufficient and utterly enrapturing, as well as depicting a character who transcends many stereotypes of her gender.


Ronan plays Eilis, an Irish lass who travels to America after finding her hometown offers no prospects in terms of jobs or marriage. Although seemingly confident about her choice, the epic journey across the pond is fraught with trepidation, both physically and emotionally. Staying at a boarding house run by an endearingly curmudgeon Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters), Eilis finds her social skills completely out of tune with the American way of life. Learning from the young women around her, Eilis carves out a path for herself, working at a trendy department store whilst studying to be a bookkeeper, with an end goal of becoming an accountant.

Along the way, Eilis develops a romance with an Italian-American named Tony (Emory Cohen), whose gentlemanly courtship is a welcome change from the usual depiction of 1950s red-blooded men - no casual sexism here. Just when Eilis looks to be living the American Dream, though, her roots take hold of her, and the two countries which make up her identity begin to pull her apart.

A subtle and sophisticated existential romantic drama, Brooklyn is a piece of gorgeous filmmaking and beautiful storytelling. Director John Crowley shows complete control over this movie, never yielding to pressure in terms of pace or tired tropes. Viewers who get bored easily should probably queue up for a blockbuster, Brooklyn is a substance over style kind of outing. Based on the novel by Colm Tóibin, and with a screenplay from Nick Hornby, the plot is allowed to flourish on screen without resorting to cheap theatrics.

There is no need for any of that anyway, with Ronan delivering one of the best performances this year. Her portrayal is completely engaging, stoic at times and then emotionally blustered at others, it is a strong delivery throughout and a fantastic example of female prowess.


The supporting cast is far from ornamental either, with some delightful performances. Including Walters, who adds a fantastic levity to the scenes she rocks up in, and Jim Broadbent plays a much needed touchstone for Ronan’s character.

As a piece of period drama, the film has a wonderful aesthetic to lose yourself in. Sumptuous backdrops, both Irish and American, are done with an authenticity which is easily missed in other such attempts. At no point did the story lose its realism, and with the heavy, relevant themes, Brooklyn is able to throw its hat in the ring for the awards season. I would say that the film is most likely not going to compete with the bigger movies, but Ronan cements her place as one to continue watching.

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