HK Magazine - - FILM - Adam White

Di­rected by John Crow­ley. Star­ring Saoirse Ro­nan, Emory Co­hen, Domh­nall Glee­son, Jim Broad­bent, Julie Wal­ters. Cat­e­gory IIA, 112 min­utes. Opened March 10.

With a name “Brook­lyn,” you’d be for­given for as­sum­ing that this film is about a group of per­ma­bored mil­len­ni­als who lie around drink­ing cock­tails out of jars as they be­moan with equal lethargy the de­cline of so­ci­ety and their ar­ti­san sour­dough cul­tures. Thank­fully, “Brook­lyn” has noth­ing to do with mus­taches, fixed gear bikes or kom­bucha, and is there­fore to­tally tol­er­a­ble. In fact, this im­mi­grant’s tale is gen­tle, beau­ti­fully shot and acted, and re­ally rather good.

It’s 1952, and Eilis (con­fus­ing Ir­ish name alert: this is pro­nounced “Aylish”), played by Saoirse Ro­nan (con­fus­ing Ir­ish name alert #2: this is pro­nounced “Ser-sheh”) is a shy young Ir­ish woman who’s packed off to Brook­lyn, New York by her sis­ter in hopes of a bet­ter life. Bit­terly home­sick and all alone in this brave new world, Eilis strug­gles to find a rea­son to be in Amer­ica: That is, un­til she meets Ital­ian-Amer­i­can Tony Fiorello (Emory Co­hen, im­pres­sively chan­nel­ing a wry, nicer Mar­lon Brando), who starts to show her that she can build a home in this strange new coun­try, where ev­ery­one wears sun­glasses and dar­ingly cut bathing suits. But when Eilis’ sis­ter sud­denly dies, she must head back to Ire­land, where she meets the softly spo­ken and rather rich Jim Far­rell (Domh­nall Glee­son)—and finds her af­fec­tions torn.

So, yes: Nick Hornby’s script of Colm Tóibín’s book is a fairly ba­sic, fairly melo­dra­matic plot. But melo­drama of­ten works in cin­ema, and direc­tor John Crow­ley and his cast weave a magic out of this tale. “Brook­lyn” is an im­mi­grant’s story, so of course we’re con­fronting clas­sic ideas of home and iden­tity, of how we de­fine our­selves by where we are and the lives we build.

But it’s also a tale of ma­tu­rity and self-knowl­edge, flaw­lessly de­liv­ered by Saoirse Ro­nan. Ro­nan is the vivid heart at the cen­ter of “Brook­lyn,” bring­ing a breath­less kind of warmth into each scene, while also keep­ing a lid on most of the melo­drama. When she’s not in shot—and that’s rarely—the film suf­fers for it. She ab­so­lutely de­serves her Best Ac­tress Os­car nom­i­na­tion for her role as the shy, un­sure Eilis, who finds her­self blos­som­ing in the new world—and be­ing torn apart when she finds that the old world might hold some­thing for the new her. The knowl­edge of hav­ing a place, of hav­ing some­one who cares for you, gives her an in­ner con­fi­dence that she’d never thought she would have. That can be a dan­ger­ous thing.

Direc­tor Crow­ley and Cin­e­matog­ra­pher Yves Bélanger nail the mood of the movie, es­pe­cially in their use of color. Ire­land gets de­press­ing greys and blues, while Amer­ica is a land of bright yel­lows. When Eilis re­turns home, though, Ire­land takes on a dif­fer­ent hue, a more sub­tle warmth. She’s told that there’s a fu­ture here for her, and we see it in the shots them­selves. Mean­while, Ro­nan is shot (and cos­tumed) with a won­der­ful touch of soft-lit, old-school Hol­ly­wood glamor.

The film is a charm­ing fa­ble, and it’s a rar­ity to see a good tale told well. “Brook­lyn” nails the sto­ry­telling, and all with­out a sin­gle fixed-gear bi­cy­cle in sight.

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