Brooklyn – Film Review

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Zegen and Julie Walters

Release Date: Nov 6

Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Wexford native in the 1950s, moves to Brooklyn to find work. While at first struggling with the culture shock of America, Eilis soon settles and finds love, but in doing so must decide where it is she’d rather call home. Based on the book of the same name by Colm Tóibín, the screenplay is written by Nick Horby.

There are a lot of things that could go wrong in this film. The two main things would be that one piece of subject matter in this film is the matter of “Irishness” itself, to the point that the country of Ireland is almost a character within the film. I’ve written before about my cynicism of the use of “Irishy” elements in films and how the exoticism of Irish elements can be used to market films for surface reasons, without any discipline.

The other element is the fact that Brooklyn is a film that simply boils down to be very much a straight forward and simple romance. With the potential for absolute hoke with that and the potential for absolute hoke with its intended “Irishness”, there is a potential recipe for something…. well, hokey.
Because of this, it’s a relief to see that Brooklyn, all in all, is actually a very pleasant and functional dramatic romance.

It’s no surprise that Saoirse Ronan can carry this film, as she’s proven once again her very subtle but strong charisma and versatility as an actor. The rest of the cast make for a sweet ensemble piece.

One character worthy of note, however, is that of Emory Cohen’s. His performance as a love interest character, at times, comes off as a little dopey as he often simply plays the part of a smiling pretty boy. But this is most likely due to the material rather than his abilities as an actor, as he proves interesting enough in moments outside of this. Another odd note is that although Domhnall Gleeson is a leading actor who has a poster billed credit in promotion of the film, he doesn’t show up until quite late and feels more like a minor character than anything.

The film is a pleasant, very likeable and relaxing, with a decent but not overt amount of conflict. Or rather, the conflicts in the story are a bit delayed and perhaps this is itself is a cause for the main issue in the film.
To put it simply; it’s a bit long.

Its pace is very finely tuned, as the film jumps between tones of wistful drama, quirky romance and fun, light-hearted comedy in a way that isn’t jarring. That said, from time to time, there is a desire for things to move forward a little faster. Considering its length, it may not have done any harm to shave off at least 10 of its 111 minutes.

Another thing that feels drawn out is the film’s supposed own love of Ireland itself. It shows the many ups and downs of the country’s culture and personality of the time, but is still something that could have been dialed down, even just a little bit.

Ultimately though, Brooklyn is a sweet film with enough dramatic turns, cultural details and amusing moments to make for a pleasant watch. It’s light but functional and the obviously strong efforts put into its construction make for a simple but charming period romance.

Score: 3.5/5

Written by Seamus Hanly

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