Saoirse Ronan absolutely shines in this movie as Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant who finds her way to 1950’s Brooklyn in search of a job and a better life. She is pursued by a young Italian-American, Tony Fiorello, played by Emory Cohen. Even with their very different backgrounds, Eilis and Tony and fall in love. A tragic situation causes Eilis to return to Ireland for an extended visit where she falls back into the routine and comfort of her old life. This routine unintentionally leads Eilis into a new love interest and creates a complicated love triangle. Eilis has to decide between her old life and her new life.
Kudos to director, John Crowley, for not only casting Ronan as Eilis Lacey but for recognizing what talent he had with her and showcasing her in every way possible. So much of the movie rides on the emotions expressed by Ronan. She conveys to us her youthful innocence, the sadness of saying goodbye, fear of a new life, homesickness, falling in love, the pain of losing a loved one, all with a full screenshot of her expression. Crowley never rushed the scenes, but let us fully experience the beauty and pain that Ronan was experiencing. A lesser actress could not have pulled of this movie. It’s a good story, but Ronan’s performance elevates this movie from good to great.
One of the things I liked best about Brooklyn was the way they represented the fellowship of women. I loved Eilis’s older, more experienced roommate on the ship on her first trip to New York. At first she seems like an awful woman, only looking out for herself, but later proves to be very compassionate and helpful to Eilis. I love it when Eilis’s fellow boarders come to her rescue twice; first getting her ready for her Coney Island date with Tony and her need for a swimsuit and sunglasses and then again getting her ready to meet his family and learning how to eat spaghetti. I love the way they complete the circle with this fellowship of women by having Eilis mentor another young Irish immigrant on the boat the end of the movie.
As I was watching this movie, I was wondering when the transition happened from women searching for husbands to women searching for jobs. In so many period pieces, women are desperately seeking husbands for their livelihood. It was refreshing to have a woman searching for a job instead and creating her own life. I would like to take a look back through history to see when this transition happened.
Emory Cohen did a wonderful job of playing Tony Fiorello, the aw-shucks Italian-American love interest. However, I found the chemistry between Cohen and Ronan and to be a little shaky. I wonder if that was by design – illustrating their different backgrounds. I found the chemistry between Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson who played Eilas Irish love interest, Jim Farrell, to be much more palpable. I also wonder if this was by design – showing their similarities.
Brooklyn was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (Nick Hornby) and Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan).