Romance. Drama. Ireland. Brooklyn. These are all of the elements that make up the story for John Crowley’s (Closed Circuit) latest film from writer Nick Hornby (Wild, An Education).
Not only one of the best films of 2015, but one of the best romance films of the decade, Brooklyn is a beautiful and moving romantic drama that soars thanks to a terrific screenplay and a winning performance from Saoirse Ronan. Plus, Yves Bélanger’s cinematography is absolutely breathtaking.
Set in the 1950s, an Irish immigrant, Eilis (Ronan), decides to leave her mother & sister for a new job as a store clerk in a high-end department store in Brooklyn, New York. The job has been arranged by Father Flood (played by Jim Broadbent), and he also sets her up in women’s boarding house, led by the hilarious Mrs. Kehoe (a fabulous Julie Walters).
Eilis has a hard time adjusting to the American life. She is not performing well on the new job, as she isn’t the friendliest, and she is not making friends. So Father Flood decides to sign her up for night school so she can learn to become a bookkeeper. This helps her adjust to life in America much more.
The real change, however, comes when Eilis goes to an Irish dance with some of her boarding house ladies. There, Eilis meets an Italian American named Tony (played by Emory Cohen), and the two of them hit it right off. He’s kind, sweet and very gentleman-like, which is perfect for Eilis. So sparks a beautiful romance between the two, making Eilis very happy to be in America.
Life seems to be going well for Eilis, as she’s been exchanging letters between her sister Rose, and now spending time with the love of her life. Sadly, tragedy happens back in Ireland, and Eilis must return to Ireland for a month to deal with it, leaving Tony very worried she may never come back.
In Ireland, a majority of her friends and family are hoping Eilis will stay. They are all unaware of the romance between Eilis and Tony, as Eilis doesn’t want to tell anyone quite yet. Her mother even encourages her to work as a bookkeeper while she is in Ireland just to make some extra money. However, the real complication comes when Eilis’s Irish best friend Nancy (played by Eileen O’Higgins) sets Eilis up with Jim Farrell (played by Domhnall Gleeson). Jim is Nancy’s soon-to-be husband’s best friend, and Nancy thinks a little fun would not hurt Eilis.
The whole situation is tearing Eilis apart, as she misses Tony back in Brooklyn, but her mother wants her to stay in Ireland and settle down with Jim Farrell. Ultimately the decision will be up to Eilis, as she will need to trust her heart and feelings.
The charm, the emotion and charisma of Saoirse Ronan’s performance is hands down one of the best performances of 2015. Ronan full amerces herself in this character, making this her best performance since Atonement. It’s nice to see Ronan growing as an actress, and this film clearly shows that she is ready for wonderful things.
The rest of the cast does a great job as well, with the next standout being Julie Walters. She gives the film the little humor that it needs under the romance and drama. I couldn’t imagine a more suitable person for the character. Sadly, it will be ignored come Oscar time.
As for the direction, John Crowley has created a strong and beautiful film that benefits from cinematographer Yves Bélanger (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club) and Nick Hornby’s excellent screenplay. There wasn’t a dull moment in the film (as I worried about), and the story/dialogue is gorgeously written. I hope to see Hornby’s screenplay under the Best Adapted Screenplay category, but he was left out of last year’s Oscars for Wild.
Brooklyn is one of the best romantic dramas of 2015 and this decade. Saoirse Ronan gives her best and most mature performance to date, while the screenplay from Hornby captures you and draws you in to this beautiful story. Rated PG-13.