Brooklyn is a moving, emotionally intelligent and refreshingly old-fashioned movie. Brooklyn review: The Fairytale of New York Surely Casts a Spell. The narrative is perfectly situated in the early 50s. However, the style followed for the film-making harks back further still, to a time when “women’s pictures” were the backbone of a popular cinema. Contemporary audiences who have been raised on overblown spectacle and overwrought romance will have to recalibrate their reactions for appreciating the rich rewards of John Crowley. But for those who are enamored of the heyday of the 30s and 40s of Betty Davis, Joan Crawford, and Barbara Stanwyck, Brooklyn will feel like a breath of fresh air.
This was originally a Colm Tóibín novel and it was emphatically adapted by Nick Hornby. It tells the story of Eilis(Saoirse Ronan), a young woman hailing from Enniscorthy, County Wexford. She finds herself nearly unwittingly away to America and the new horizons of titular east coast borough. “Sometimes it’s nice to talk to people who don’t know your auntie,” declares a fellow traveler as Ireland begins receding and the New World looms. This is the world of red shoes, yellow dresses, maroon and blue cars, a stark contrast to the sternly jacketed women and the oily-haired blazer boys back at home.
The cinematographer Yves Belanger is on point capturing the widening horizons of Eilis’s experience. From the early scenes of the rainy Irish streets and the chilly church interiors to the warmer American tones that will later find their way back across the Atlantic, all are refracted through Eilis’s blue eyes.
Initially, Eilis is bereft at the separation from her sister, Rose(Fiona Glascott), but she finds her feet when Emory Cohen’s “decent and kind” Tony Fiorello asks her to dance. He introduces her to his Italian charm, cuisine and family life. But weddings and funerals call her back to Ireland and Eilis’s heart starts skipping to a more familiar beat. Domhnall Gleeson’s Jim Farrell offers something she can only dream of before she leaves.
Brooklyn artistically evokes the sense of being torn between time, place and identity. In Ireland, Eilis is a daughter with a history and in America, she is a woman who has a future. And in both them, she is filled with displaced longing. Music has a key role to play when it comes to the overall storytelling. The new verses and old choruses of Eilis’s life are rehearsed amid contrasting dancehall scenes. And in one sublime sequence echoing the poetry of the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, Eilis serves a communal Christmas dinner to the downtrodden men who had built the tunnels and bridges. One of them stands up to sing the traditional Irish love song, Casadh an tSúgáin .
There is a montage of silent faces who offer fleeting portraits of homes left and loves lost.
At the center of all this is Ronan; who hasn’t yet taken a false step since she earned an Oscar nomination for Atonement. She appears to have developed the innate ability to act through her pupils, which seem to widen and contract at her will. Minutely nuanced gestures and pitch-perfect vocal inflections make Ronan a walking miracle.
In Ronan’s company, Julie Walters gets to modulate broader strokes of a matriarchal landlady Mrs. Kehoe’s hilarious disdain of “giddiness”; Jim Broadbent can play Father Flood like an utterly benign presence minus the fear of soft-soaping. Not only are we led to believe that Eilis can inspire the patient ardor of two completely different men but, also that both men can be worthy contenders for her affection.
Giving plaudits where it’s due, the costume, production and hair and makeup have done such a tremendous job of shifting between context and character. They guide us through the transatlantic voyages of the story and the inner development which is greatly reflected by the outer change.
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