John Crowley’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel is a delicious blend of melancholy and romance. Saoirse Ronan is magnificent as Elis Lacey, a young Irish lass given the opportunity by a benevolent priest (Jim Broadbent) to have an exciting new life in Brooklyn, a foreign mystical land promising excitement and opportunity. It offers a world away from working at the local shop governed by the rancorous Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan), whose sour demeanour plays a key role in Lacey’s ultimate fate. Buried behind the New York skyline, Elis suffers from homesickness as she misses her mother (Jane Brennan) and sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott) but where there’s sacrifice, there’s fortune as for the first time in her life she realises she’s the subject of attention from the opposite sex , encountering a sweet natured Italian-American lad, Tony (Emory Cohen) at a local dance.
Cohen is reminiscent of Titanic-era Leo, babyfaced and charming, the two forming a delightful pair. Saoirse Ronan is spellbinding, still only 21 and for what her name lacks in pronounceability she’s already made up with a career of impressive performances. Close ups reveal her face wrapped in determination and apprehension, using a lush combination of strength and delicateness to make this character so compelling. Nick Hornby’s script offers the film a dashing of comedy, not least from the forthright head of Elis’s Brooklyn boarding house played by Julie Walters. It’s the romantic chemistry between Ronan and Cohen which keeps the film buoyed even during some of the more aimless moments as circumstances force Elis back home and she must decide between a simpler, wholesome life or the more exotic, stylish world of Brooklyn with her first love. Domhnall Gleeson plays Jim, a perfectly decent, well-mannered suitor from her hometown and the dichotomy between Elis’s two lives is unsubtly painted but nevertheless engaging.
Brooklyn is a slow-burning and stylish film which offers plenty more than just romance. It’s a heart-wrenching tale of homesickness and bravery, conveying a woman forced between peering forwards and backwards in a universally resonant story about a person attempting to discover her real place of belonging.
Review by David Rank
Brooklyn is out now in the UK. Rating 12A (UK). Running time 112 mins.