The Oscars are fast approaching, and now is the best time to check out high-quality indie dramas that garner the most awards attention. One such film is Brooklyn, which is nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture. While not as flashy or mainstream as fellow nominees like Mad Max: Fury Road or The Revenant, Brooklyn is a compelling and entraining film with great writing and even better performances.
Brooklyn is the story of Eilis (pronounced Ay-lish, played by Saoirse Ronan), an Irish immigrant in the 1950s, and the ups and downs she experiences as she tries to build a new life for herself. Along the way she meets charming Italian immigrant Tony (Emory Cohen), and you may be able to guess what happens from there, minus a few twists and turns along the way. Said twists and turns are key, because they keep the somewhat clichéd boy-meets girl story from feeling stale; in fact, the story even manages to surprise you once or twice. Having said that, however, Brooklyn’s engaging plot is probably its weakest feature.
The story may be and simple and familiar, but it’s backed up by a great script and skillful direction by John Crowley. Crowley re-imagines 1950’s Brooklyn and Ireland as vibrant worlds that feel authentic and familiar, while also being fresh and believably lived-in. Speaking of that Oscar-nominated screenplay, the dialogue throughout the film is very clever and incredibly funny at times. The story may sound at face value like it’s a heavy drama—and for the most part, it is—but there are enough moments of genuine levity amongst the fleshed-out characters that it’s hard not to be entertained.
Now it’s time to talk about perhaps the film’s biggest selling point: the acting. Saoirse (pronounced Searsha) Ronan is incredible in the lead role, and well deserving of her Best Actress nomination. Ronan portrays her character with a captivating mix of vulnerability and strength. You easily believe that Eilis is a product of two cultures, and you as the audience follow her on a journey to discover her identity. Every character in the film revolves her, and she is the kind of character who is complex and a little flawed, but you want to root for her.
Ronan’s performance is almost equaled by Emory Cohen as her primary love interest Tony, and their chemistry on screen is excellent. Also worth mentioning is Domhnall Gleeson as Irish suitor Jim, and Julie Walters as Elis’s scene-stealing landlady Mrs. Keogh (pronounced Key-yo). Along with the direction and great production design, the outstanding performances help transport you to a believable 1950’s Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is remarkable film, but it’s not for everyone. Period dramas—even really good ones—have a somewhat limited demographic appeal. While the witty dialogue adds some great light-hearted moments, the film succeeds much more as an engaging drama than an entertaining film for the masses. Also, due to the romantic themes and focus on strong leading women, most men would probably get more out of Brooklyn as a date film than as a general theater experience.
For anyone who enjoys watching the Best Picture nominees, however (or anyone who loves great cinema), Brooklyn is a must watch.
Note: being a smaller film, Brooklyn does not currently appear to be playing in any theaters closer than Annville, Pa. On the bright side, it’s a film that would work nearly as well on the small screen as on the big screen. Definitely check it out when it becomes available to own, rent or stream.