In our cynical age of contemporary cinema, purely sentimental depictions of true love are hard to pull off and rarely attempted. But fans of classic cinema will surely appreciate John Crowley’s heartfelt new film Brooklyn, which successfully invokes the spirit of the romance dramas of the Golden Age. Starring a radiant Saoirse Ronan, this transatlantic saga is a must-see film for all the lovers out there.
The story begins in Ireland, where young Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) lives with her mother and sister. It’s the 1950s and opportunities are few for ambitious girls like her. But one day, fate opens its doors when a message arrives that will change her life forever. By the kindness of a Irish priest, Eilis recieves sponsorship to emigrate to America, land of endless possibilities. Before no time, she’s passing through Ellis Island, nervous but hopeful for the new life ahead of her. But the pangs of homesickness soon threaten to dampen her spirit, until a handsome Italian-American named Tony (Emory Cohen) comes along and sweeps her off her feet.
Eilis’ story doesn’t end there however, as an unfortunate incident prompts a brief return home. While there, complicated feelings resurface, as she’s torn between her love for both countries and their people. In the ultimate test of her “coming of age”, Eilis is forced to take fate in her own hands and choose between love of country, family or her soulmate.
The decision of whether to stay or go weighs heavily on Eilis, and Crowley conveys this with powerful emotion. Indeed, the love of Ireland is just as passionate as the burgeoning romance, as the film evokes a palpable nostalgia for the land and its people, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the heyday of John Ford. The initial farewell scene is as heartrending as it gets, and a subsequent ballad sung by an Irish immigrant is bound to elicit your own feelings of longing.
Indeed, Brooklyn unabashedly wears its heart on its sleeve throughout, especially when it comes to the connection between Eilis and Tony. As the film’s central lovers, Saiorse Ronan and Emory Cohen have dazzling chemistry, with both actors in peak form. Cohen is a revelation as Tony, capturing the eternal bliss of finding your perfect match through his glowing smile and warm demeanor. Ronan is equally impressive as Eilis, with the film marking the actress’ own coming of age in her most assured, mature role to date. If Crowley’s filmmaking is referencing Ford, then Ronan is his Maureen O’Hara.
Brooklyn is such a cinematic tour de force that even the most unsentimental should find aspects to appreciate. If the actors don’t do it for you, then there’s still the luscious score and postcard-like cinematography to get you swooning. At its core, Brooklyn is a film about love, but it’s also about life, in all of its triumphs, amusements and heartache. Expect this one to figure into the Oscar race in Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and with a strong push, Best Supporting Actor for Emory Cohen as well.