In a New Life, Torn Between Two Homes

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Romance is something we have seen in films of any genre from any part of the world. Sometimes, these stories are told with an embarrassing level of clichés; and other times, they are told in such a way that has us swept away in their enchantment.

I’m more than pleased to say director John Crowley’s drama, “Brooklyn,” which is based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, falls among the latter and achieves in being a tender and emotional journey of a young woman moving to America.  In a film with passionate performances and a timeless story that washes over you with its charm, you’ll be overcome by this piece of magical storytelling.

In 1952, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) leaves her home in Ireland to start a new life in Brooklyn.  Although she lives comfortably in a boarding house and has a steady job, she’s terribly homesick.  One night, while at an Irish dance, she meets a friendly Italian boy, Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), and they begin to date.  When a death in Eilis’ family occurs, she returns to her native land for a few weeks to take care of some affairs.  While in Ireland, several circumstances arise that cause her to consider whether to remain in Ireland, or go back to America.

Where do you begin to describe Saoirse Ronan’s tremendous performance?  We have to start by saying it’s, without question, one of the finest from this year.  Despite gaining considerable attention for her breakthrough role in the 2007 film “Atonement” at the age of 13, it’s clear her talent didn’t peak too early.  With her performance in “Brooklyn,” you see she’s one of the most talented young actresses working today.  As a young immigrant woman, Ronan injects so much emotion into her role that makes you understand and feel for her character as she struggles to adapt to her new home.  To see Ronan’s display of her character’s transition from shy and homesick to confident and hopeful is to realize how much Eilis goes through to establish a better life for herself.

Emory Cohen displays a warm and gentle presence as Eilis’ boyfriend.  Cohen wonderfully exhibits his character’s slightly shy, yet confident attitude of a man in the midst of falling in love with the girl of his dreams, and seeing him pursue Eilis with kind, simple gestures is one of many things that make Tony and Eilis’ romance an immense joy to watch.

Accompanying the two superb leads is a supporting cast comprised of some world-class talent, including Julie Walters as Ms. Kehoe, the no-nonsense, yet kindhearted landlady of the boarding house; Jim Broadbent as Father Flood, the caring priest who helps get Eilis situated in Brooklyn; and Domhnall Gleeson as Jim Farrell, a friendly young man who takes a liking to Eilis during her return visit to Ireland.

The screenplay by Nick Hornby may sound like a romance you’ve seen before, but trust me, this is a story that is told so beautifully, you’ll be completely won over.  One of the best aspects of the narrative is how, when it comes down to Eilis deciding whether to stay in Ireland or go back to Brooklyn, the decision doesn’t depend solely on her romantic connections, but on other important factors that Eilis must take into consideration, and it’s this aspect that keeps you invested in the story.

Despite the film being very moving, Crowley is careful not to make the more poignant sequences cloying.  There are several scenes that will make you shed a few tears, but those scenes deserve them because of how well they depict Eilis’ immigrant experience.  Crowley captures the beauty of Brooklyn and Ireland and what both places hold for Eilis, allowing us to sympathize with her as she must decide in which of these two places she will live her life.

If you want to be immersed in a film and feel the swell of emotions that cinema gifts us again and again, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but “Brooklyn.”

Final grade: A

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