- 04 Nov 15
Saoirse Ronan excels in stunning 1950s tale of love and immigration
There’s a poignant, chest-swelling lyricism to Brooklyn – a visual ballad about immigration, home and love. Director John Crowley brings Colm Toibin’s words to the screen with deftness and grace, capturing the bustling, pink- skied wonder of 1950s America; the reed-rustling, fresh-aired beauty of Ireland; and the turmoil of a young woman torn between them.
Saoirse Ronan’s eyes always manage to radiate an energy that’s forever on a precipice, constantly deciding between tears and steel. She’s the perfect choice for Eilis, a young Enniscorthy woman who leaves her mother (Jane Brennan) and sister (Fiona Glascott) to seek out work in New York. The emotional ambivalence Ronan portrays is echoed by Crowley’s portrayal of her journey. There’s little easy sentiment or romanticising of this departure from home. Her experiences are initially more ordeal than adventure, from her transatlantic voyage, depicted in all its lurching discomfort, to her growing sense of alienation and struggle to figure out who she is. The sense of unease and unfamiliar evoked by the daunting cityscape of New York is an affecting metaphor for a woman suddenly faced with the potential of the world, and her own place within it.
A pair of suitors further complicate Eilis’ pull between her two homes, and her sense of self within them. Italian-American plumbing apprentice Tony (Emory Cohen) is all mischief and bravado and barely-concealed romanticism, whose ever-growing adoration for Eilis can be plainly seen on his joystruck face. However, a trip back to Ireland introduces Eilis to Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), a generous-hearted society man who is quietly insecure that he can’t complete with Eilis’ American adventures.
The ever-growing emotional stakes, the realism of Eilis’ growth into a self-possessed woman and the influence of the superbly written supporting characters makes Brooklyn an oxygen-thinning ascent to a dramatic and powerful climax. Any Irish person touched by emigration – and that would be 99 per cent of us – will find the movie equally resonant and emotive.