NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: Often movies have a magical quality as you’re viewing them. Some will demand your undivided attention, others will hypnotize your senses, leaving them to simply wash over you with their exuberance and classic filmmaking procedures. In the case of John Crowley‘s “Brooklyn,” the latter is certainly the case. There comes a moment in the film when you are taken in by the film’s classic style filmmaking, and tenderly thought-provoking performances from its cast. Director Crowley, in partnership with Oscar-nominated scribe Nick Hornby, create a beautiful and sensitive love story that is everything a Nicholas Sparks film adaptation wishes it could be. With a vibrant turn from Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan at the helm, “Brooklyn” utilizes all of its tools in its arsenal to convey a potent message of love and family.
“Brooklyn” tells the story of Ellis Lacey (Ronan), who in 1950s Ireland and New York, has to choose between two men and two countries. One is the charismatic Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen) while the other is the reserved yet sensitive Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson). Both are making a case for Ellis’ love.
The film is helmed with a strong and undeniable confidence from Saoirse Ronan. Feeling the internal battle just pouring out of her in nearly every sense and every scene, Ronan finds Ellis’ struggle and wears it on her sleeve. She doesn’t just have fear of choice, she goes through a barrage of emotions, and we actively see the character progress in each milestone that she hits throughout. It begins with the yearning and devastating separation from her family in Ireland, before gradually being brought to a yearn for acceptance in a new city. Her mild but rewarding progression into comfort and confidence is shown before being abruptly ripped away when tragedy strikes. Every instance is felt in Ronan’s work, all of which is authentically true and vivaciously real. It’s one of her best turns, and further proof that her name will be on our lips for quite some years.
After breaking out with a scene-stealing turn in Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Emory Cohen shows his sensitive and charming side of his range, resulting in an equally measured and tantalizing performance to his co-star. Don’t sleep on this kid. Domhnall Gleeson’s reservations to Jim Farrell is haunting in a role that doesn’t call for many words or emotions. You can see the ache and pain in his movements, desperate for love and an overwhelming feeling of being lost. In a few scenes, Julie Walters as Mrs. Kehoe sustains as a surprisingly comic relief in a very serious drama. Her stoic, passive demeanor is such a treat to watch in her scenes of interaction with the girls of the boarding house in which Ellis is staying.
Screenwriter Nick Hornby constructs the story with real life emotion, taking very few short cuts for its characters. He allows Ellis’ feelings to make the journey in each instance in which she faces them. The foundation of Tony and Ellis is honest, and rings true as something we’d see in any instance within our own lives. Where he really shines in the connection between Ellis and her family. Thousands of miles away, and with little interaction on screen, you are heartbroken and pulled through the ringer as Ronan exemplifies the loss of her family and determination to see them once again. If there is a chink in Hornby’s armor, it’s the case he creates for the audience for Ellis to stay in Ireland. Up until the second half of the film, Hornby makes his case for New York, I’d only wish he made a more compelling case for Ireland, giving the audience a more fruitful and difficult dilemma in making their own decision about where Ellis should be.
One must acknowledge how impeccably constructed the film is from head to toe. Crowley assembles a dynamite team behind the camera, who all standout in their own right. Cinematographer Yves Bélanger, with a yellow hue and soft palate, capture the country and the city to stunning results. He frames each scene intimately, capturing the heart and emotion of every word spoken. Production Designer François Séguin and Set Decorator Suzanne Cloutier capture the 50’s homes as if plucked from the time period themselves, along with transporting us to a foreign land we can only dream to visit. Odile Dicks-Mireaux‘s magnetic costume work elevates each performance, allowing the actors to fully engage with their characters and the time. And finally, the music of Michael Brook is a breathtaking swell of emotion, creating moments that will surely bring you to tears.
“Brooklyn” is a damn fine movie, following all the classic beats that we’ve grown to love about the most timeless love stories. “Brooklyn” will join the ranks of those timeless stories in the coming years. It’s a joyful and heart aching film that stands as one of the year’s best, and a sure-fire contender for several Academy Awards.
“Brooklyn” opens in theaters on November 4 and is distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.