Beautifully filmed and acted, “Brooklyn” is an old-fashioned charmer and hands down, the best love story of the year.
This romantic drama also strikes a universal chord about homesickness and finding your place in the world.
It is also a smartly-crafted immigrant song of America, as scores of Irish lads and lassies landed on our shores, and some were the hands that built our country.
Set in 1952, the film’s period attention to time and place is wonderfully evocative of a long-lost innocence.
Eilis Lacey is given passage to New York City for a fresh start. She lives in a boarding house with other single ladies, works at a posh department store and attends night classes in bookkeeping. At a church dance, she meets a nice young man, Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), who politely woos her.
In one of the many delightful, humorous scenes, he invites her home to have dinner with his big Italian family. The cultural revelations and dialogue are priceless.
But a family tragedy forces her to return home, and she is torn about her loyalties, as she is pulled back into her comfortable and familiar Irish way of life. She meets another nice young man, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), a bashful dreamer.
Will she return to her new life in Brooklyn or stay in her small hometown village? She has to figure out what’s important and what she needs to let go of to make her own way in life.
Saoirse Ronan, a gifted actress who scored an Oscar nomination for “Atonement” when she was 13, has delivered consistently excellent work ever since, but this is the first time we see her in a grown-up role, and she is radiant. Another Oscar nomination could be forthcoming, she’s that good. Her quiet strength and steely resolve as Eilis grows into a confident woman is a joy to behold.
As her suitors, Emory Cohen (“The Place Beyond the Pines”) is flat-out adorable and Domhnall Gleeson (“About Time”) is sweet and sincere.
Strong supporting work by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent ( “Iris”) as Father Flood, the kind parish priest, and Oscar nominee Julie Walters (“Educating Rita”) as Mrs. Kehoe, the firm, outspoken landlady, is another enjoyable aspect.
Jessica Pare (“Mad Men”) easily slips into the sophisticated, glamorous boss role while Fiona Glascott makes a lasting impression as Rose, Eilis’ loving big sister, as does Jane Brennan as their widowed mom, Mary. Brid Brennan is the epitome of a horrible gossip and despicable manager as shopkeeper Miss Kelly.
Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity”) has adapted Colm Toibin’s novel into a small gem — a poignant reminder of what it’s like settling into a different place, of what roots and wings mean, of longing, loss and regret. His smart dialogue and ability to convey yearning is masterful.
Director John Crowley (“Is Anybody There?”) sets an engaging tone, presenting common themes in an uncommon way, which immediately connects with an audience.
He is aided by a pitch-perfect production team. Cinematographer Yves Belanger (“Wild”) evokes warm nostalgia, Set designer Francois Seguin (“Lucky Number Slevin”) succinctly captures an era, costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux (“An Education”) recalls the rich hues and striking pastels of ’50s women’s wear, and composer Michael Brook (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) tugs on our heartstrings with lush orchestrations.
This movie is the kind where you smile, laugh and tear up, and don’t want it to end. It is one of the best of the year, and easily makes my Top Ten List.
- DIRECTOR: John Crowley
- CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent
- Rated PG-13 (a scene of sexuality and brief strong language)
- 111 minutes