Rebecca Lalor reviews John Crowley's Brooklyn
Brooklyn is a film that is inexplicably wonderful and superior to many. With a rating of ninety-six per cent on 'Rotten Tomatoes', I simply had to lay eyes on it.
Not in a long time has a film worked its way into my heart with such force of a wholesome and satisfying nature. Brooklyn encapsulates this incredible sense of longing to travel; a wit, grit and instilled strength of both character and heart with this portrayal of Irish versus American culture as it was in the year 1950. With any rich period drama comes top level acting, and Saoirse Ronan (playing a young Irish Eilis Lacey) portrays her character in a style of acting that can only be described as superior to any other form of period drama that I have seen, bar Maggie Smith in the popular series Downton Abbey. This comment is personal opinion only, so all feel free to object but please, do watch Brooklyn beforehand.
Eilis Lacey is a young woman, barely hitting her twenties I imagine, that has had incredible luck sent to her in the small, secluded town of Enniscorthy, Co Wexford in the form of a one-way ticket to America. The film displays scenes of despair and monotony as Eilis is shown helping out in the local village shop, undermined by the viciously portrayed owner and lady shopkeeper. I struggled not to feel her anticipation and excitement at stepping on that boat in Cobh, Co Cork to sail to New York. New York was the land of opportunity.
I found the use of interesting camera shots extremely satisfying, as chinks of iridescent sun rays light up the dark and gloomy building that the Irish immigrants queue meekly in on arrival, luggage light and Sunday-best hats perched tenderly on ragged hair. I remember admiring a moment in the film where our leading actress opens the door to her new world of New York City. Everything about that moment held a sense of awe and nervous waiting, captured intelligently by the camera crew with the chinks of light streaming in, sudden and naked. It can almost be seen as a moment of crossing the threshold, the threshold that brought her on that rocky, precious sailing ship to find a better quality of life in America.
The initial shackles of homelessness that this young woman struggles against are quickly replaced after the winter with a blossoming romance, in the form of a young American-Italian with sleepy chestnut eyes and a warm smile. Love in this film is the intoxicating sort - it tugs at your heartstrings and makes you smile, both sadly and hopefully and cheesily. The two become a couple as they court in the big sunny streets, dancing, eating and falling in irreplaceable love with each other’s souls. We don't expect the unexpected. When Eilis has to deal with disruption to her past, we follow a story that displays quite a lot of hopeless feelings followed by those of hopefulness. The film tackles that horrible part of love with such vivacity, where temptation lures a previously locked heart to that of another. The scenes are brilliantly evoked, and I found myself anxious to discover whom she decides to choose and why.
Ronan comports herself with grace and compassion for life throughout this film. She is a female character that has inspired not just me, but many others. Brooklyn is plenteous and unique in its ''period drama'' category. I adore the quaint and couth nature of the leading lady. A natural, at beauty and acting is she.