On the surface, one could write Brooklyn off as a simple love story. However, that would be a gross misunderstanding of the film. Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant on a journey to America in hopes for a better life. As she struggles to adapt to her new environment, she meets Tony (Emory Cohen) and learns that home is not a fixed place.
When a film ends and the credits roll, the name that usually appears first is of the director. Screenwriters and producers would then follow. Only after several credits pass do the names of the cast emerge.
Brooklyn does not follow this order, and rightly so. As the final scene fades to black, Saoirse Ronan is the first name the audience sees. This is clear indication by the director, John Crowley, that this film is not his.
It is Ronan’s.
In a performance that could have easily been overdone, she conveys the inner conflicts that most immigrants face, both during their initial arrival to a new place and their inevitable homecoming, without much dialogue. With a charming performance by Emory Cohen to provide support, Ronan shines and proves that restraint is at times the only way to portray internal struggle.
The film, however, is not perfect. Because Eilis never struggles with her Irish identity, the film misses an opportunity to explore a complexity most immigrants experience. The audience also did not spend much time with Domhnall Gleeson’s character, which made Eilish’s attachment to him seem sudden and rushed. Unable to fully commit to either the romance or the immigrant experience, Brooklyn comes off as a superficial tale that fails to truly resonate with audiences.
Now, we have to talk about the Academy Awards. Brooklyn is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. The latter two are well deserved, but Best Picture nomination is questionable at best. Overall, the film is tender and lovely, but lacks power and complexity. Due to its predictability, the film’s ending is not at all memorable and the film’s overall pacing falls apart in its last act.
Brooklyn should be seen for Saoirse Ronan’s performance, but it can wait till Netflix.
Brooklyn was released nationwide on November 25, 2015.