Quite a nice movie with fine and immersive period details. Brooklyn utilizes Irish actress Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Hanna”) in her first role to use her natural home-raised accent, but she has always been one that has won our hearts over with her humble, if dainty, old-fashioned mannerisms. That appeal fits perfectly with her character Eilis Lacey, a young woman who leaves small town Ireland in 1952 to find opportunity in the United States – she will be a shopgirl, study to be a bookkeeper and then accountant, and if the unassuming cards fall into place, allow a man to court her for marriage.
The nicest guy in the world (Emory Cohen as Tony) does meet her at a dance, and is smitten with her. But the tension of the movie is this: Tony, albeit wearing his heart on his sleeve, is merely a plumber with moderate aspirations. And he’s Italian from a loud, pasta-eating family. Some cultural differences might come between them, you think? Fuhgeddaboudit, he wants marriage, it doesn’t even have to be a romantic wedding.
“Brooklyn” becomes one of those movies where the girl must return home to be with her lonely mother, discover all over again what she left behind, be tantalized with a career opportunity she never had and, to boot, a new suitor (Domhnall Gleeson, showing range as a stout gentleman), and consider breaking Tony’s heart if she indeed abandons the idea of ever returning to America.
So clear-cut, we understand the weighing leverages of pros and cons of both Ireland and America for Eilis by decision-making time. This is subtle storytelling, aside from some blatant expository dialogue, and it examines the tenets of female liberation in an era where so-called “big” decisions were cloistered to society expectations, as well as the throbs of homesickness, the predicaments of juggling two loves, the pettiness of small town gossip interfering with self-choice.
The ending is no smash hit, it takes no risks swinging for a grander one. But we film buffs are essentially a collector of memories, aren’t we? “Brooklyn” gives us a mild and slender vision of the past, not a grandstanding one, but I’m grateful for being the indelible delicate imprint on my memory as it is.
111 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
DRAMA / PERIOD FILM / MILD & CHARMING AFTERNOON
Film Cousins: “Far and Away” (1992); “Angela’s Ashes” (1999); “Gangs of New York” (2002); “The Immigrant” (2014).