Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Fiona Glascott, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Domhnall Gleeson
“In the morning, she was not sure that she had slept as much as lived a set of vivid dreams, letting them linger so that she would not have to open her eyes.” ― Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn
Many viewers will feel the same way after seeing the immigrant romance Brooklyn in the theater. This is a small, alluring valentine of a movie, likely the most charming this year. This intimate love letter is helped by a painterly, careful direction and heartfelt performances by its actors.
Brooklyn casts its magic spell starting in the early 1950s. Ronan (Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel) is Eilis Lacey, a poor, Irish lassie with no future in her small, petty village. Her sister Rose (Glascott) contacts Broadbent, an Irish priest in America and asks to get Eilis out. The kindly man of the cloth finds Eilis a job in a Brooklyn department store and board with the tough, eccentric Walters.
Of course, the young girl is going to be homesick, thousands of miles away from her loving mother and sister.
“Homesickness is like any other sickness,” Broadbent says. “At first, you feel like you’re going to die, and then you get over it, and the sickness moves onto someone else.”
The longing does pass as Eilis meets Tony (Cohen). He’s a perfectly polite, charismatic Italian boy with a thing for Irish girls. It soon becomes apparent their feelings for each other are more than mere cross-cultural curiosity. They fall in love.
Tony’s not the only person helping Eilis adjust. Her boarding mates and others she meets – at the department store, at night class, and with her charity work at the local Catholic Church – all try to make Brooklyn Eilis’s new home. They are all memorable, delightful characters, their giant personalities only slightly larger than their generous souls.
The film offers an interesting juxtaposition to today’s U.S. politics; in 1950s Brooklyn, Americans are welcoming to the foreigner.
John Cowley directs; he shows the care that made his Boy A such a success. His cinema work is light and cozy, perfect postcards of nostalgic. Nick Hornby adapted the book with a deftness that even outshines his best work in An Education and About a Boy. Because Hornby is primarily a novelist (High Fidelity), he exhibits a deep respect for Tóibín’s material and lovingly crafted characters.
Ronan and Cohen lead the cast of these larger-than-life individuals. Ronan especially lets her face radiate the amiability and sweetness of Eilis. Her girl is steadfast and admirable. Though confused and flawed, Eilis deserves happiness. She may doubt it herself, but we do not.
Brooklyn will beguile many a romantic heart – they will stop everything in years to come as this movie takes over streaming services, DVDs, and television air time. Still, see this tender, cozy courtship on the big screen now, so you can fall in love early and fall in love often.