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New Release Review - BROOKLYN

In the 1950s, a young Irish woman seeks a new life in the U.S.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emery Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Nora-Jane Noone, Julie Walters




"Brooklyn is the sort of movie you don't see much anymore. In a past era it might have been labelled a "woman's picture", and the stars would have been a lot more glamorous, but in essence you could picture a young Bette Davis portraying a character like Eilis."





I've lived in Ireland all my life and yet I've never seen an Irish character on screen that I could truthfully say I recognised. Until now. John Crowley's adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel Brooklyn is the first movie to truly capture those dual traits of the Irish - wit and melancholy. While some of the characters are stereotypes, they're stereotypes that actually exist, none more so than the guilt-tripping Irish Mammy.
Leaving behind her Mammy and her small claustrophic Wexford village is Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), who sets off for the titular New York borough. There she slowly builds a new life, moving into a boarding house shared by a group of other Irish girls, taking a job in a department store and studying accountancy in the evenings. At a dance, the sort where Catholic priests prowl the floor like prison camp guards, Eilis meets a young Italian-American man, Antonio (Emory Cohen), and the two begin a courtship. When tragedy forces Eilis to return to Ireland, which is now a far more prosperous than the country she left behind, she finds herself torn between her old home and her new.
Brooklyn is the sort of movie you don't see much anymore. In a past era it might have been labelled a "woman's picture", and the stars would have been a lot more glamorous, but in essence you could picture a young Bette Davis portraying a character like Eilis. In the grand scheme of things, the stakes are low, but not so for the movie's protagonist. Eilis may find herself in one of the world's great metropolises but it's her Wexford home that's the more stifling of the two. Crowley acknowledges the negatives of a judgemental small Irish town, but he never mocks his characters in the way wannabe Irishman John Michael McDonagh has in the past.
Ronan has never been better; she manages to imbue her character with both strength and vulnerability, and her growth is palpable. Cohen is likeable and full of old world charm, as are Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters as Eilis's kindly priest and landlady, but the most quietly devastating performance comes from the relatively unknown Jane Brennan as Eilis's mother. The movie's most effective, and most uncomfortable, scene is played out between Ronan and Brennan with commendable subtlety, emotions left unexpressed, as is the way with us Irish.



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