Overview: When a tragedy forces a young Irish immigrant back to her country of origin, she must decide whether to stay in the life she once had there or go back to her newfound life in America. Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2015; Rated PG-13; 112 minutes.
A Rich Atmosphere: They say you can’t go home again, but that’s not quite true, is it? You can go home again, even after years away. And often you do, and you stay for a bit, and you start to forget all of the reasons you left. I’ve left home many times, and while it’s safe to say that I’ll probably never live in the town I grew up in again, but I’ll still go back from time to time. And every time I know I’ll feel a small, mostly inexplicable tug in my heart pulling me to stay. That pull of home coupled with the ringing call of a new life is central to Brooklyn. These feelings are deep, hard to explain, and surely tough to represent accurately on screen, but Brooklyn doesn’t miss a beat. Director John Crowley and cinematographer Yves Bélanger have crafted brilliant, sensory atmospheres in which one can easily lose oneself in this film. Flawless acting enhances the world the film builds. Saoirse Ronan is better than great. She is a breakthrough, star-on-the-rise, unbelievably talented and watchable actress. Emory Cohen is one of the more charming love interests I’ve seen on screen in a long time. And those who know me already know how I feel about Domhnall Gleeson, who’s consistently grand here.
Coming of Age: Brooklyn has largely been marketed as a love story, complete with a requisite triangle. Love does abound in the film, but it’s about so much more than that. Brooklyn is an exploration of self, of choices we all make and struggle with. It’s a coming of age story that emotionally fulfills ten-fold. But it’s not just that Brooklyn is emotionally fulfilling that makes it so great. It’s that it’s real. The film never falls back on tired sentimentality. Changes and emotional breakthroughs aren’t monumental and sudden as they so often seem to be in movies. Instead, they’re quiet and thoughtful, expressed through a bright yellow dress and an air of confidence, or a little extra swing in the phenomenally talented Ronan’s step.
Overall: For anyone who’s ever left home or who’s ever missed it. Anyone who’s ever known that they could go back again, and live in the same town, with most of the same people, but still realize that life couldn’t ever really be the same as it once was. Brooklyn is the movie for you. What a treasure it is to see a poignant and universal dilemma portrayed in such a beautiful way.