“Brooklyn” is a film created from the 2009 historical novel by Irish writer Colm Toibin. The book won the 2009 Costa Award. It’s set in the early 1950’s in County Wexford, Ireland and Brooklyn, NY. The story is never overdramatic or unrealistic. A young Irish woman emigrates to America in order to find work, and in doing so divides her heart between two faraway lands that can never be in one place except in her own mind.
The heroine, Ellis (pronounced “Aylish” in Gaelic), leaves her country home in Wexford and is befriended on her voyage to New York by an Irish girl who has already established herself in New York and is on her way back from a visit to her home country. She gives Ellis some pointers on getting through immigration. Note that later in the story, Ellis returns the favor to another new immigrant.
Directed by acclaimed Irish playwright and theatre director John Crowley, the colors are rich, the settings are detailed and the camera slowly and gracefully follows the actors and their faces. Revealing and witty scenes are played out at meals, in a dance hall, in a high-end department store. These rich details hint of lushness and romanticism of the movies of the 1950’s, the historical period in which the story is set, a soothing change from the frenetic pace of films whose directors grew up playing video games and directing music videos.
Some theatre directors are awkward with the transition to filmmaking. Their films tend to be a series of static one-dimensional scenes with narrative revealed completely through dialogue. Crowley has made several movies prior to “Brooklyn,” so he’s learned the language of film. “Brooklyn” succeeds resoundingly because of the way Crowley’s cinematographer Yves Belanger (“Wild,” “Dallas Buyers Club”) is able to follow his subjects with the camera, and because of the extraordinary acting skill of his cast.
Ronan Saoirse, who plays Ellis, is able to fully enter the imaginary world of her characters and to move in that realm. You feel that for her the camera, crew and lights around her don’t exist at all. Belanger catches her every subtle movement of eyes, face and hands.
Emory Cohen, a relatively new face, plays boyfriend “Tony” with a genuinely love-struck quality. Domhnall Gleason, as the lonely Irish suitor, gives a nuanced performance as always. Jim Broadbent is memorable as “Father Flood”. Julie Walters “steals the show” as the boarding house matron, “Mrs. Kehoe”. Jessica Pare (“Madmen”) is perfect as the ultra-sophisticated department store supervisor who seems cold at first, yet later reveals a warm heart.
This is a film of historical value. The experiences of the characters are based on the real Brooklyn of the early 1950’s. Particularly poignant is a scene in a soup kitchen where Ellis volunteers. She is serving dinner to men who came to New York to toil in the tunnels building the subways and once that project was finished had little luck finding another source of income. “Brooklyn” is well worth seeing.
Rated PG-13; Run time: 111 Minutes
Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. email@example.com
For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com/.