Brooklyn Review

My Rating: 8 out of 10

From watching the trailer alone, Brooklyn looks like a sappy romance that could potentially have a very sad ending. In actuality, the film is very well crafted and has a great blend of emotions. Plus, (slight spoiler alert), it does not end sadly. Though with that said, Brooklyn is also not a “feel good film” throughout. There are scenes that made me laugh, scenes that made me cry, and scenes that made me pretty angry with certain characters.

Brooklyn tells the story of an Irish immigrant named Eilis (EYLISH) Lacey (played by Saoirse Ronan), who (with the help of her sister and a local priest) moves to New York in search of a better life for herself during the early 1950s. She grapples with the issues of homesickness and being an outsider in a foreign land, but eventually meets and falls in love with an Italian plumber named Tony (played by Emory Cohen). Her relationship with Tony changes everything for her and she is able to view America as her new home. However, a sudden tragedy causes her to go back home to Ireland and she must chose where her true home is.

My favorite thing about the film was how it was idyllic in some respects, but also very real in terms of the emotional journey that Eilis goes through as a character. The first half of the film is filled with witty writing that managed to keep audiences from a wide variety of age groups laughing when I saw it in the theatre. The romance between Eilis and Tony is also very sweet and made me think of how my grandparents were probably around their age during that time, lived in roughly the same area, and had the same ethnic backgrounds as the two characters. If they were still alive, I would have loved to have heard their opinion on the film and see if it accurately depicted the 1950s in New York.

When I first saw the trailer, I thought that the main focus of the film would be a Romeo and Juliet type romance between Tony and Eilis, but I was happy that the filmmakers didn’t go in that direction. Instead, Brooklyn is really about Eilis growing as a character, which is handled so deftly that it is hard to fully grasp how much she has grown until the very end of the movie.

While there were scenes in the latter half that made me really frustrated with Eilis and actually caused me to think a lot less of her as a character, I think the writers managed to capture a certain realism in her actions after the tragedy occurs. Even though I disagreed with the choices she made, I don’t think it was contrived or unrealistic and I still felt connected to her and wanted her to be happy in the end. My only real problem with the latter half of the film is the change in tone, which is pretty drastic in comparison to the feel-good, funny beginning. I think that a way to make this tonal shift work would be to include a little more in the scenes preceding and during Eilis’ trip back to Ireland.

Another very minor issue that I had was that I wasn’t quite sure what the time period was until halfway through the film, which changed what I thought about the direction the movie was going in. During the beginning, I thought that Brooklyn might have taken place in the 1930s or 1940s, but the fact that it was in the 1950s really didn’t change much other than my own expectations of what would happen next. (I spent a good amount of the beginning worrying that Tony was going to have to fight the Nazis and die in some tragic way.)

Overall, I thought the acting from the two leads was phenomenal. The reason I could feel so deeply in both positive and negative ways about Eilis as a character was because Saoirse completely became Eilis. I felt immersed in the world and the time period and really loved all the witty banter that went on in the boarding house and workplace. This closeness to Eilis helped really accentuate that the movie was about her growth as a person and about her choosing where her home would ultimately be.
I loved how honest the movie was about how there are times you so deeply want to be connected to people in your past, but there are other times when there is nothing better than being around someone who has nothing to do with all of that. The writers also captured the sense of how sometimes in life things can change in an instant, one minute you are depressed, the next you are happy, and the next you are depressed again, but when you take a step back to really appreciate all the circumstances in your life, you will see that things don’t usually go bad all at once and even if everything seems great it is usually a respite from another wave of tragedy waiting around the corner. Thus, we should be thankful for what we have and not take things for granted, but we also shouldn’t wallow in sadness.
I think that everyone from teenagers to seniors will love some part of Brooklyn as it is really one of the more positive best-picture nominees I’ve seen in a while. The acting is excellent, the writing is witty, and the messages about life are truthful. While I don’t think Brooklyn will take the top award this year, I do think it is one of the better films of the year and a great romance/period-piece.
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