Film & TV

British Film Festival Review: Brooklyn

In the 1950s, a young woman in a small Irish town moves to Brooklyn, New York in search of a better life, discovering the meaning of home and finding romance.

Brooklyn is a beautiful coming-of-age film set in 1950s Ireland and Brooklyn, New York, that demonstrates home isn’t always where you’re born, but sometimes where your heart lies.

Young Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) lives in a small Irish town where gossip and social standing are the dominant forces and stifle the lives of the young. Knowing that there is nothing for Eilis in their home town, her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) organises for her to migrate to the exciting city of New York in search of a better life.

Although initially she is dreadfully overcome by home-sickness and longing for her family and home back in Ireland, Eilis begins to create a life in her new home of Brooklyn. She makes friends in her boarding house, begins studying book-keeping at night school, excels at her job in a fancy New York department store, and is swept up in an exciting new romance that grows into a strong and passionate love.

Just as Eilis seems to have finally settled into her new life in Brooklyn, a devastating tragedy throws her world into a spin, leaving her questioning where her home truly lies, and leaves her wrestling with a life-changing decision.

Director John Crowley (True Detective) beautifully unfolds Eilis’s journey of self-discovery, creating a recognisable and realistic transition from a timid and unsophisticated Irish lass whose life had little in front of it, through to a strong young woman whose future shines brightly.

Much of Eilis’s personal growth is due to her relationship with young Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen). It is truly beautiful watching their young love blossom in the form of a more traditional romance of gentle courting and a gradually evolving physical relationship. Both characters are richly portrayed so that we become emotionally entangled in their lives and the hope they carry on for their future together.

Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Atonement) brilliantly captures the essence of the spirited, intelligent young Eilis. She portrays her quick-wit, but just as deftly reveals her character’s emotional and loving side. Ronan allows access to her character’s most private and vulnerable moments, which draws the audience into an empathic emotional rollercoaster of intense feelings.

Up and coming actor Emory Cohen (A Place Beyond the Pines) plays young Italian plumber Tony, who captures the old-school charm of 1950’s lead actors, especially with his cheeky, lopsided smile and gentlemanly manners. We feel the enveloping passion of a young man falling into his first love, with Cohen leaving the audience’s hearts aflutter.

Julie Walters (Calendar Girls, Mamma Mia!) adds many laugh-out-loud moments to the film as Eilis’s outspoken boarding house mistress, Mrs Kehoe, with her witty one-liners while managing the lives of her young female borders.

Brooklyn is drenched in strong emotions from love and lust to grief and despair. It is a beautiful film that gives the classics a run for their money and is well worth the emotional ride it offers.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Twitter: @Georgie_xox

Rating out of 10:  8

Brooklyn will screen again on 14 November 2015 for the BBC First British Film Festival, which runs 28 October – 18 November 2015 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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