Review: Brooklyn Is Period Romance At Its Best
Director: John Crowley
Screenwriter: Nick Hornby (screenplay) and Colm Tóibín (novel)
Principal Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Fiona Glascott, Domhnall Gleeson, Jane Brennan, and Matt Glynn
Summary: An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
I often tell people that I’m cold blooded and it’s not just because my blood pressure is stupidly low and I’m always cold. I tend to have a hard time getting behind romantic movies because I usually don’t seem to understand them to a degree. It’s like there is a switch in my brain that doesn’t work and half the time I spend in romantic movies I am wondering why people aren’t just honest with each other. So I tend to either avoid, when possible, movies that are a little beyond my stunted emotions. Brooklyn was a Sundance movie that didn’t really pique my interest, but now that it is getting a release and possible award buzz I realized it was time for me to bite the bullet and watch another period romance movie.
Brooklyn surprised me in being a movie less about romance but more about leaving home and making decisions for yourself instead of everyone else making them for you.
When it comes to “leaving home” I’m not exactly an expert. I went to college locally and even moved back home in my early twenties. When I did finally go off on my own my parents were always very close and it wasn’t until they had to move this year that I was really “on my own” in so many words. So, in that sense, I don’t know what Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is going through when she leaves Ireland in the 1950’s. It’s a story we can all relate to, though, because there is so much fear in going off on your own. I know I personally never thought I’d be able to get by on my own yet here I am. Eilis has made the decision to make the move from Ireland to New York despite the fact that her mother (Jane Brennan) and her sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott) are encouraging but hesitant. While the first part of the movie shows someone so home sick that she feels ill, Eilis soon finds a new sense of home in Tony (Emory Cohen) and gets swept up in romance. The romance, for me, feels rushed in a way that young love in media often is but I can also see why. Eilis is desperate for a new sense of home in a faraway land and it makes sense that she would find that in Tony.
It wasn’t until the second part of the movie that I felt it lost a bit of focus. Eilis is called back to Ireland and must leave Tony behind, and while she is back home she is almost paired up with local Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). I feel like this twist really wasn’t that needed when the point could be brought across without another romance. When she is back in Ireland everyone around her is pushing for her to set up a life back in Ireland and leave New York behind. Everyone from her mother to her friends seems to think that she is just going to stay and there is a lot of pressure for her to do so. It’s that moment that all young adults have when they realize that you have to make your own decisions with your own life. It’s a point that could have been made without this other “shoehorned in” romantic plotline, but considering the genre I wasn’t surprised to see it pop up. I just think the movie could have been stronger without it.
The cast does a very good job with Saoirse Ronan once again finding her feet in the indie genre. Ronan, much like Mia Wasikowska, seems to thrive much more in the indie genre than the mainstream and she is solid here. She captures a very timid young woman who isn’t sure of her place in the world and the moments when she is called to be emotional are very believable. Her accent is also very good and I personally didn’t find it over the top. Emory Cohen is also likable as Tony who seems to be both moving fast but and very respectful of Eilis at the same time. He doesn’t push her and the only times he does are moments when he seems to stick his own foot in his mouth. Director John Crowley has only directed a handful of movies and television, but his vision for Brooklyn is bright while also somber enough that it doesn’t become dismal. The story by Nick Hornby, adapted by a novel by Colm Toibin, won’t blow your mind with twists but it is interesting enough that it never got boring.
Brooklyn is about as good as a time period romance can get because the romance doesn’t become too overwhelming. I believe the story could have been better without the secondary romance plot but I understand it’s point in the narrative. Brooklyn is a movie that shows that, as adults, we need to make choices for the betterment of our lives and not those around us.