Playing a little bit of catch up, I finally got the chance to see Brooklyn. Make sure to look forward to more movie reviews for all the Oscar 2016 films, leading up to the big night!
Often in modern film, we are shown large stories with over blown special effects, ridiculous hijinks, and other tom foolery that– though eye catching– tries to veil an ultimately weak story. Then there are the smaller films, that don’t feature superheroes or big splashy stars, but do something just as grand: Tell a good, simple story. And that is exactly the realm in which the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn falls into.
Set amidst the changing times of 1952, the film stars Saoirse Ronan as Eilis, an Irish girl with little to no future ahead of her. To fix this, her sister Rose (Fioana Glascott) makes an agreement where she can be sent to live in New York, and make a life for herself. After settling in to her lonely life, Eilis meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a humble, sweet Italian boy, and the two fall in love. But when a tragic family matter comes up for our young heroine, Eilis must make the choice between whether she should make her home in America or Ireland.
Right from the get-go, it is hard to find anything but charm in every frame and word of Brooklyn. Taking cues from the works of Frank Capra–another famous immigrant who told stories of the little guy winning in the end– director John Crowley creates a piece of art that seems to connect across generations. Simple in its story and overall execution, these are the kind of little movies our grandparents described to us, that though they don’t feature giant battles or tons of visual insanity, they instead stick with you in your heart and mind.
Saoirse Ronan has always been someone on many people’s radar, but with this performance she finally shines bright. She has that unique ability to show every single thought going through her character’s mind, without a single word being spoken. With those skills and her overall command of the screen, Ronan becomes Eilis to an almost scary degree, making the audience want to simultaneously hug her and punch her at the same time.
The men in Eilis’s life are just as captivating. Tony could have easily been pushed to the side, but Emory Cohen gives the role magic and spark that makes his character Tony out from the many that could have swept our leading lady off her feet. With some comparisons made to Brando, Cohen is a diamond in the Hollywood rough, who though had some good performances in indie darlings like A Place Beyond The Pines, seems to really shine here.
Star Wars newcomer Domhnall Gleason plays Eilis’s other suitor, Jim. Despite his less-promiment role, Domhnall is very much a force to be reckoned with, just like his famous acting father Brandon. Much like his role from In Time, Domhnall is a natural when it comes to romantic roles. It’s an unexpected talent, since he has a unique, slightly awkward charm to him. But even in his short screen time, Gleason makes an impact, and comes off much more mature than his past performances would suggest.
The real star of Brooklyn isn’t any of its cast members, but the two very distinct settings in which it takes place. Cinematographer Yves Bélanger captures the stunning landscapes of 1950s Ireland and the bustling city life of New York with such ease, that the entire finished product comes together like a highly choreographed dance. Though all shot on a modest budget, Bélanger understands the correct elements needed to make this film look as vast and detailed as possible, and does justice to the beauty and timeless quality of the story at hand.
Though it might not take the big prize come Oscar night, Brooklyn is the tiny movie that could, and has proven that films like this can still exist, even in the current over blown climate of Hollywood today. It is a slice of humble, stress free pie, with a lovely touch of romance, that will definitely be added to my favorite on-screen love stories of all time. And I’m not ashamed to say that in the slightest.