Film review: BROOKLYN, from ‘Built For Speed’

Set amid the post-war Irish immigration to America, Brooklyn sees shy, naive young Irish woman Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronin) leave her mother and sister in the small Irish town of Enniscorthy in the early 1950’s to take up a job in a snooty department store in Brooklyn.   Although, miserable and homesick at first, Eilis soon finds love with young Italian American, Tony (Emory Cohen) and begins to flourish in her job and studies.  A return to Ireland for a funeral, however, rekindles feelings of affection for her old life and sparks romance with local lad Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) leaving her torn between her old and new homes and between two eager chaps who think their relationship with Eilis is exclusive.

Brooklyn is a charming, wryly funny and at times, moving romance that will no doubt hold great affection for many audience members particular those who have made a similar journey to Eilis.

The film is harmed, though, by thin plotting and an absence of dramatic tension.  It lacks teeth which is in part due to the fact that it’s set in a romanticised version of 1950’s Brooklyn where there seems to be no crime, poverty or racial division.

The film’s greatest assets, however, are its fine performances.   Saorise Ronin is typically charming as Eilis mixing quiet determination with understated intellect and cheeky wit.  As her beau Tony, Emory Cohen has plenty of charisma even if at times he threatens to become a clichéd depiction of a confident, swaggering Italian American.  Julie Walters is also terrific as the razor-tongued but good-hearted boarding house owner who acts as a surrogate mother for numerous young ladies finding their way in the world. The always welcome Jim Broadbent also appears as the local Irish priest Father Flood who acts as a liaison for women like Eilis who have just arrived in the US.  While likeable as ever Broadbent’s sporadic appearances in the film don’t give him quite enough opportunity to establish Father Flood as a memorable character. Similarly, Domhnall Gleeson is relegated to the status of a secondary player which feels odd given his rocketing star status.

Director John Crowley and cinematographer Yves Bélanger capture the look of the 1950’s although the film occasionally has the slightly bland appearance of a telemovie and lacks the atmosphere and texture of Carol which was set in a similar time.

Brooklyn is an utterly charming and enjoyably sweet film but its lack of dramatic heft means that, while constantly engaging, it’s never compelling.

Nick’s rating: ***.

Genre: Drama/ romance.

Classification: M.

Director(s): John Crowley.

Release date: 11th February 2016.

Running time: 112 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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