BROOKLYN: 4 ½ STARS. “there is no denying the power of Ronan’s work.”
“Brooklyn,” a new film starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish girl who immigrates to New York in the 1950s, asks a simple question: Is home where the heart is or where the marriage licence is?
Ronan is Eilis Lacey a young woman from Enniscorthy, County Wexford in southeast Ireland. Her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) realizes there isn’t much in the small villager for her and arranges, through the church, passage to New York with a job and a room in a boarding house on the other end. “I can’t buy you a future,” she says. “I can’t buy you the life you deserve.”
The shy young woman takes a while to warm up to her new surroundings, but a lively bunch at her rooming house—overseen by the irrepressible Mrs. Keough (Julie Walters)—and a love interest in the form of Tony (Emory Cohen), a sweet Brooklyn plumber, bring a smile to her face for the first time since leaving home.
When tragedy strikes the couple secretly wed, promising to stay faithful while she travels to Ireland to be with family during a tough time. Once there she discovers her newly acquired confidence and ability—plus the attention of a handsome young man (Domhnall Gleeson)—make it difficult to leave Ireland and return to the States and her husband.
Written by Nick Hornby (from a novel by Colm Tóibín) “Brooklyn” is a heartfelt coming-of-age journey that skilfully avoids any trace of mawkishness or sentimentality. A sharp script and John Crowley’s no nonsense direction are in part responsible for the movie’s tone, but the film’s beating heart is Saoirse Ronan’s remarkable performance.
As one of the great faces in movies she can speak volumes with a look, and here, as a girl whose body is in New York but heart lies in Ireland, her melancholy and homesickness is so real you can reach out and touch it. Call her Little Meryl if you like, but there is no denying the power of her work.
She’s accompanied by a strong cast including Walters—who manages to make lines like, “A giddy girl is every bit as evil as a slothful man,” sound like Henny Youngman one liners—and Cohen, who as Tony a character as sweet and romantic as he is shy and polite.
“Brooklyn” is a movie about decisions that makes all the right decisions. Some situations may be familiar but Ronan’s exemplarily work helps us ignore the familiar tropes as she milks every bit of emotion from a profoundly touching story.