Brooklyn – Film Review

About a Girl

Saoirse Ronan grows in stature with every role.  Still the tomboy with the girlish face that shot her to fame in Atonement, she stands on the shoulders of her own giant steps to reach higher and higher, and that walk down the red carpet to pick up an Oscar can only be a matter of time.  Torn between Ronan’s Romeos, it doesn’t give away any plot not already sacrificed on the altar of trailer to say there’s more than one love interest in this tale of innocence lost and love found.

Here, to back up the case of a career well founded, Ronan reprises aspects of characters in The Lovely Bones, Hanna and even Grand Budapest Hotel.  This time, she portray Eilis – “Ay-lish” as a host of supporting cast inexplicably struggle with her Irish name while wafting through Enniscorthy, her home town, with the ease of a Guinness slipping down the throat of a thirst-slaked former navvy of the sort Eilis volunteers to feed at Christmas time, much to the praise of her parish priest (Jim Broadbent) and otherwise indomitable landlady (Julie Walters).

The real star of this classic love story though is not on screen.  Colm Toibin wrote the book that was a best seller in more than is native Ireland, but it was an Englishman who brought it to screen, and not just any Englishman.  When it comes to insightful writing and personal observation, Nick Hornby has more pedigree than a purebred Irish Wolfhound, and every line has his signature to it.

If you can overcome the ambiguity of the period – Eilis appears to be emigrating from 1920s Wexford to 1950s New York – then this will be the enjoyable Atlantic crossing it’s intended so to be.  Maybe though, that’s the story.  It’s about giving up the staid old world for the brave new one; the repression of the small home town for the liberation of the big city.  Then again, there are elements of regret and resolve in equal measure, and, just when you think you have a handle on the story, there’s a twist that’ll take you by surprise.

The surprise isn’t that Saoirse Ronan is a born New Yorker and her name is every bit as beautifully difficult as her character’s (“sear-shah” for the Anglo Saxons among us).  Nor is it that Montreal doubles for ingenious Brooklyn, through that’s quite diverting too.  It’s that what may be dismissed as a date movie is, in fact, a much deeper story, that you may just find yourself falling for, irrespective of who you’re with and, in that way, you might just share the dilemma about this girl.

Cert 12A, directed by John Crowley, UK release 6 November


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