Brooklyn Review

So I watched Brooklyn…

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I actively avoided watching this movie for several months. I hadn’t seen its trailer but the poster was just so unappealing for some reason. If not for Saoirse Ronan’s Oscar nomination I probably would have avoided this movie for sometime longer. Remarkably it was still in threates (the length of its theatrical run should have been a hint to me of its quality) and watching it was some of the most fun I’ve had at a cinema. I love it when a movie surprises me and this film is probably the biggest surprise I’ve had in years.

Okay, basic plot: In the 1950’s, Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) leaves her home in Ireland to travel to America for better prospects. Ellis ends up living in Brooklyn – an area that is becoming more and more well known for its large number of Irish immigrants. Ellis finds life difficult at first and struggles with feelings of homesickness and loneliness. This all changes when Ellis meets Tony (Emory Cohen) – an Italian-American who has a soft spot for Irish girls. The two begin a relationship and soon fall in love. Their romance has to be put on hold when Ellis has to urgently return to Ireland to attend to a family matter but she promises Tony that she will return. Ellis returns to Ireland a much stronger woman than she was when she left. The home which she had left because of its minimal prospects now seems full of hope and opportunity. Ellis meets Jim (Domnhall Gleeson) and – lost in the familiarity of home – begins a romance with him. Ellis now finds herself at a crossroad on whether to return to her new life with Tony or stay at home and begin a new relationship with Jim.

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This film is beautifully simple. Now when I say simple, I don’t mean it as a insult but rather a compliment. We live in a time where films are becoming longer and more packed with unnecessary technology and flair. While this works great for a lot of films; it also leads to many films losing their story and focus in the hustle and bustle. So it’s great to see a film that is so focused on its story and allows the events of the film to play out in an extremely organic and natural way. This film is completely free of pretense and bloat. Brooklyn is part of a dwindling set of films where the story dictates the runtime instead of the opposite. In the hands of another director this film could have gone over two hours which a film like this is allowed (nowadays encouraged) to do. I loved the focused narrative and concise storytelling that director, John Crowley brings to this film. It left me wanting more which is becoming a rare experience in film since many directors overcook movies and leave you wishing for them to end. There was also a great thing that the director does in this movie with the colour palette. When the film starts, Ellis is quite a drab girl and the film’s colour scheme reflects this. The colours are pale and lack vibrance but after her life turns around, the film bursts into colour with bright reds, yellows and greens. It was a very subtle storytelling aid and one that I absolutely loved.

Screenwriter, Nick Hornby deserves a round of applause for his work in crafting this film’s story. This film is based on a book and film-adaptations of books can be extremely challenging. It often feels like writers try to include too many aspects from the book and this leads to a film that feels overstuffed. Hornby creates a rich and compelling story that feels like it has just enough of everything. There are quite a few characters in this film but it never feels crowded. This is because Hornby clearly decides who’s is central and requires in-depth detail and who is in the periphery and requires a passing glance. All the characters in this movie are wonderfully written and they feel real. Ellis undergoes a transformation in this film from soft-spoken wallflower to powerful, independent woman and this transformation is beautifully showcased. The film takes its time in displaying this change in its lead and this allows you adequate time to connect with Ellis but also to appreciate the change.

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Now for the best thing in this movie, and that’s Saoirse Ronan’s captivating and compelling performance. It’s always difficult to comment on where the Oscar is going until you’ve seen all the nominees but she’s my favourite to win it. I’ve still got to see Brie Larson in Room and Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years but it’s going to take something special to beat Ronan. The cast around Ronan also do fantastic jobs. My favourite of these performances was Emory Cohen as Tony. He had this sincerity and charm to his character that I loved. He had me rooting for him to win Ellis’ heart and there were several moments where I was heartbroken for him. Domhnall Gleeson impresses as always. He’s such a talent and has incredible range. He’s a star to watch.

Overall, Brooklyn was a movie that I avoided for far too long. It’s one of my favourite movies from 2015 and one of the best romance movies I’ve ever seen in my life. It has a great natural feeling, backed by a strong script and a sensational performance by Saoirse Ronan. Go watch this movie. 9/10

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