The story, when you think of it, really seems kind of cliche, almost like a chick flick. Still, Brooklyn (based off a book of the same name) works mainly due to the lead performance.
Even before I saw Brooklyn, I was aware of how talented an actress the 21 year old Saoirse Ronan is (though I am still trying to learn how to pronounce her name).
Already an Oscar Nominee for Supporting Actress in 2007’s Atonement (unseen by me as of this review), it was in 2011’s underated Hanna (she plays a young trained soldier you don’t want to mess with) where I noticed her talents of carrying a movie with acting skill rarely seen at her age. She will certaintly be around for some time.
In Brooklyn (set in the early 1950s), she plays a young woman named Eilis Lacey. She is taking the advice of her loving Sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) and leaving her home country of Ireland. Life there is pretty decent (despite working for one heck of a horrible boss every Sunday after mass), but her future there does not look very promising (her friends are seeing guys before she is). She takes the advice and travels to the United States (learning some things along the way).
She is sponsored by a Priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent, fitting the role as easy as ever) to go to school to learn bookkeeping. She is in a boarding home run by Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters, who adds more spice to the dinner table scenes than anything on the food. She is wonderful.) She gets a job in a department store. Still, life in America the first few weeks is scary.
Then one night, she meets an Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen, who is stellar). Eventually, we know they will fall in love, but we don’t know (or at least I did not know) that the path they will take to falling in love would be so real. This is a true love story, with two real people talking about real things. It is the scenes between Eilis and Tony that give the movie the wings to be great. Despite good directing by John Crowley, the main reason for the entire films effect lies in the chemistry between this two young people.
Eventually, something happens in Ireland that forces Eilis to go back (not before meeting Tony’s family, including a scene stealing little brother). Why she goes back, and what happens is something I will not say, except I felt the movie lagged a bit during these scenes (though not entirely).
Parents, the movie is rated PG-13 for some language, but mainly for one scene of sexuality. It lasts maybe a few minutes, but there is no nudity (basically, if your kid saw The Fault in our Stars, I think they would be fine with this film).
In the end, the movie rests entirely on the performance of Saoirse Ronan. I took acting classes before in college, and one of the hardest things for me to do personally was to cry. Ronan does so with such ease you want to almost go up and hug the screen. Her acting is both not visible yet still strongly effective, which is something we may expect out of a Streep or a Day-Lewis or a De Niro or Pacino. If that is not a good enough compliment, I don’t know what is.
Overall: Three and a Half Stars *** 1/2