Review: Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan in a visually lush story about the life of an Irish immigrant in the 1950s. Ronan played Eilis, a young woman who goes to Brooklyn in search of a better life. She arrives there with a job and a place to stay. In that sense her immigrant story is easier than many such tales.

The local priest (Jim Broadbent) sponsored Eilis. He arranged night classes in accounting for her at Brooklyn College. She excelled in her studies.

Mild spoilers ahead.

The film is a love story in every way. Love for the era of the 50s and all its detail. Love for Saoirse Ronan’s face and eyes and brilliant talent. The camera lingers on her often, as she ponders, pines, cries and delights. The story told about Eilis’s life is about her finding love – maybe a little too much love.

Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in Brooklyn
Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in Brooklyn.  They look at a tract of land on Long Island where they want to build a house.

I remember the 50s vividly. In fact, some of the costumes Ronan wore in this film looked exactly like things I wore in the 50s. Things were different 60 years ago. A woman was defined by finding a man. When Eilis got to America she was so homesick she was almost ill. Only when she met Tony (Emory Cohen) and became enamored with him did she find a reason to be happy. Their story was lovely – tenderly told and focused on Eilis.

Bad news from home drew Eilis back to Ireland. She didn’t tell her mother or her friends about Tony. They fixed her up with a man named Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) to whom she was very attracted. He wanted her to stay in Ireland and marry him.

I found it odd that Eilis would engage with another man after Tony. She was committed to Tony. It didn’t seem to fit with her character. But it led to a turning point in the film. Eilis had to decide whether to stay in Ireland with Jim or go back to America and Tony.

Eilis’s landlady in America was played by Julie Walters in a role like you’ve never seen her do. She was marvelous. James DiGiacomo played Tony’s 8-year-old brother and literally stole every scene he was in.

Saoirse Ronan’s performance as Eilis was luminous.Saoirse Ronan is a mere 21 years old. She’s played a series of remarkable characters in the past. She was in Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hanna and many other films. Her role in Hanna was also the starring part. She played a 16 year old assassin in that 2011 film. She began acting in 2003 at about 9 years old. Her performances are always perfection. Her performance as Eilis was luminous.

While I have some 20 20 hindsight feminist opinions about how life was lived in the 1950s and about how a woman doesn’t need to be with a man to be happy, this film isn’t about 20 20 hindsight. It’s about how things were in 1950. It’s perfect at 1950. The film was directed by John Crowley. Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay, based on a novel by Colm Tóibín.

5 thoughts on “Review: Brooklyn”

  1. Virginia, you have done it again! I’m forwarding your website to a movie-going club that I know in Victoria, Canada. I know they will love your reviews, as I do! I haven’t seen this yet, but hope to soon, since it has come to our town.

  2. Wow, GREAT review here! I esp. liked how there was really no “bad guy” in this film- BOTH Tony & Jim were viable choices for a husband. My mom & I LOVED the film, though it was pretty straightforward- a tribute to the ’50s I’d say.

Share your comments