Eilis Lacey is a bright-eyed and fresh-faced young Irish girl, working in a village food store, when we first meet her. It’s apparent from the off-set that, although devoted to her family and home, Eilis longs for greater things beyond her country’s borders. We join her on her voyage across the sea to a new life in 1950s America – Brooklyn to be precise. Sharing a home with other girls from similar, humble Irish town beginnings, Eilis initially struggles to fit in. Eventually she begins to find her feet, thrive at her job in a fashion department store and overcomes her tremendous homesickness. Eilis writes to her family back in Ireland to tell them of her new life; her American dream. After watching her fall deeply in love with an Italian-American boy, we start to take comfort in Eilis’ blossoming United States life. When a family tragedy takes place, Eilis finds herself back on a boat, on her way to the Irish shores she loves but had left so far behind. Central to Brooklyn is the love triangle between both countries fighting for Eilis’ heart – not to mention the men. Brooklyn is a charming, trashy sort of film we greet with open arms towards the end of most years. Heartfelt but ultimately a throwaway, Brooklyn struggles with its pacing, only finding its feet in the films closing chapters. These young lovers and their loyalties, which are being challenged by social changes and vast distances, remind one of last year’s quaint love story, Testament of Youth which shares many similar qualities. Brooklyn also contains moving performances from exciting young actors who meld beautifully into period specific backdrops.
Saoirse Ronan has been growing and improving on the big screen since she first struck most of us in Atonement. Now here she is with a charming fragility as Eilis whom she allows time to grow in confidence and complexities as she herself has done in front of movie audiences for the past eight years. Ronan is a delight, capturing the terror and bitter loneliness that comes with life in a new, menacing city. Julie Walters brings comic relief with a performance that resembles her many previous impressions of her own mother. Her character runs the so-called boarding house when Eilis resides; always trying to present her guests with a strict and disapproving manner but with an undeniable warmth always creeping through. This wouldn’t be an early Christmas release without the appearance of Jim Broadbent too. I saw Brooklyn in April at a programming conference where it proved light relief amongst the other most gruelling, intense features we were required to sit through. Brooklyn brings nothing new to the table but still contains some deeply moving sequences. It’s a film designed for church hall film society screenings on a drizzly Sunday afternoon accompanied by cake, tea and a raffle. For the right audiences it will play well – something the film seems fully and pleasantly aware of. The biggest problem here is that the movie is being marketed as a movie about a women having to choose between two men, one of which they forget to include until the film’s final half an hour.
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