Brooklyn Review

Ireland’s latest Oscar hopes?

In a busy Dublin barbers (guess which), the famous faces of cinematic clientele cover the rustic bricks. Dennis Hopper. Colin Farrell. Johnny Depp.

However, one person, above all, stands out: Saoirse Ronan. Clippings of all variety are collected into one poster-sized frame. Successes and trophies. Gowns and glamour. Anything Ronan related has been added to this Saoirse shine.

The underlying theme is this: Ireland loves Saoirse Ronan (and many hate her for this same fact).

At 21, the Irish starlet has already amassed six IFTA awards. She didn’t deserve all the praise (Byzantium, anyone?) but this adoration shows no signs of stopping. With Brooklyn, the red carpet will once again be rolled out for Ronan, and she will leave, IFTA in hand.

This time, however, she’ll deserve it completely.

Based on a book (of the same name) by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis, a young Enniscorthy girl who leaves a barren 1950’s Ireland for the hope-filled but scary Brooklyn. It follows her trials and tribulations as she adjusts to such a drastic change. The clothes, the cars, the men, the weather. Struggling at first, she soon becomes empowered by her new surroundings.

However, Ireland calls and she must consider leaving her life – and her love – in Brooklyn behind.

If there’s one word to describe Brooklyn it’s ‘polished.’ Not once does it stray into the grim territory of The Magdalene Sisters, or indulge itself in the mud of films like The Field. Brooklyn is a gently told story, perfectly weighing up the ways in which a person can get trapped in a life they don’t necessarily want. Although it may not seem it, the film centres itself on one of the most dramatic themes of all: a wasted life.

With its detailed production design and lush cinematography, it would be easy to label it as ah-isn’t-that-nice Sunday evening entertainment. But it’s too rich, too textured to simply be on the BBC back-catalogue.  

Ronan’s performance will garner her plenty of plaudits. For a 21 year-old to show this emotional maturity and complexity is incredible, especially when compared to your average 21 year-old Dubliner, who is still debating the best Burrito (fact: Boojum).

That said, the real shining star is Emory Cohen. He brings immense charm and vulnerability to the character of Tony, Eilis’s Brooklyn boyfriend. He’s her guiding light, the one who not only brings Eilis out of her shell, but also makes her forget she ever had a shell in the first place. Brooklyn’s biggest flaw is that he is too good, too enjoyable a screen presence. The film can show us as many beautiful landscapes as it wants, but even if Eilis must debate within herself, the audience knows Tony is the best choice.

Brooklyn was picked up immediately by Fox Searchlight, the distributor behind the last two Best Picture Winners. Being released in November, the peak Oscar film-time, hasn’t hurt its chances either.

Is it a popcorn movie? No. Is it a great movie? Yes.


Rían Smith

Rían’s tweets can be read in both Enniscorthy & Brooklyn. Visit his Twitter to learn more.