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Brooklyn - Back in My Day ~
We are in a constant state of evolution, and in that state of evolution we tend to look upon older generations with disgust. There were never struggles there, no stories to be told, they were just cavemen and cavewomen that did not have the knowledge and wisdom we have now. It is a trait of arrogance commonplace in the generation of the moment.
A film like BROOKLYN is easy to talk about in premise but harder to pull off. However, director John Crowley has made a loveable, immersive portrait of a generation long past. This could have easily been another dry period piece made to bait critics, but Crowley’s direction, the fantastic cinematography by Yves Belanger (of DALLAS BUYERS CLUB and WILD), Nick Hornby’s script, and the magnificent performances from Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in the two lead roles beg to differ.
Ellis Lacey (Ronan) is immigrating to Brooklyn in the hopes of finding a life there. The film follows her as she adapts to her new environment and to the changes going on back home. She finds herself torn between Brooklyn and her home of Ireland, now having developed a burgeoning romance with one Tony (Cohen).
The effort the film puts into getting the time period just right is to be admired. Crowley is interested in Ellis’ perspective as an Irish immigrant during a time where there was still some leftover resentment of Irish immigrants in the U.S. The scene where it is probably most at the forefront is when Ellis goes to have dinner with Tony’s family and one of his younger brothers says bluntly that “they don’t like Irish people.” He is promptly disciplined, and despite his mentioning this, the parents are welcoming of Ellis from the get go. The scene is played for laughs, because BROOKLYN doesn’t see an America plagued by such hatred. I will resist the urge to delve into politics, so draw your own parallels.
And how about that Saiorse Ronan? She was accepted by the critical mainstream pretty early for her solid work in ATONEMENT, and despite an occasional bomb like THE HOST, is still considered to be a promising young actress. It is rare that one shows this much promise this early, and Ronan is a big key to making BROOKYLN work. Half of the reason the movie is as loveable as it is has to do with her terrific performance. She is an absolute knockout and a bona fide lead.
Emory Cohen won’t get as much credit as he probably deserves. He has an easygoing likability to him, and a confidence that wasn’t as much on display in something like THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. I hope to see more from him. The supporting work is also strong (although Julie Walters’ Irish accent occasionally borders on sounding like Pikey). Jim Broadbent delivers another likable performance as the priest that helps Ellis get to the U.S. (it goes to show how optimistic this movie really is when it shows the *good* things the church has done for people).
BROOKLYN is one of those movies we get a few times in any given year that is cynic-proof. It is a movie filled with likable people, but they are not fools or caricatures. They have dreams, and aspirations, and they live in a world that breathes. One that has a pulse. It is a loveable film that also maintains some degree of relevance.