Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)

What's it about? Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) emigrates from small-town Ireland to Brooklyn, NY in the 1950s. Initially homesick, she begins to find her feet and her confidence until a tragedy forces her to make a difficult decision about her future.


Is it any good? What the hell age is Saoirse Ronan anyway? How can someone look so young and yet so mature at the same time? She has a quality which is reminiscent of those great female stars from Hollywood's Golden Age, women who could dominate the screen with intelligent, graceful performances. The film too is a unashamed throwback to those old-fashioned, romantic melodramas from that period, which featured sympathetic, fully-rounded female characters as their focus. Here, in a sensitively-observed and well-staged drama, we watch as Eilis is torn between the promise of an exciting, but uncertain future in America and the comfortable, but stifling familiarity of her home-town. I couldn't help feeling the balance to the two sides of the dilemma wasn't quite right - there seemed little doubt to me about where Eilis would end up, or that it was the best place for her. But this is not a film about making the 'right' decision. It's about the coming-of-age experience of a young woman as she emerges from her shell and finds her poise and place in the world. Thanks to Ronan's wonderfully expressive face we are privy to all the emotions, both negative and positive, that leaving 'home' involves and are fully invested in her fate as a result. There are nice supporting turns from Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen, but it's Ronan's luminous, Oscar-nominated performance that really hits home. It even quietened my inner feminist, which bristled a little at the regressive attitudes held by, and against, women back in the day. Thankfully, such attitudes are now a thing of the past. By the way, hasn't Saoirse got a nice bottom?

Anything else I should know? Based on Colm Tóibín's successful novel and cleanly adapted by Nick Hornby for the screen. If you can't be arsed reading the book, here's a shorter essay from Tóibín from New York magazine in which he explains just how well Ronan captured the themes he was exploring in the book. As you might expect from the celebrated Booker-nominated author, it's quite well-written - maybe even better than this review. Hard to believe, I know!

What does the Fonz think? A lovely girl.

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