Let’s begin with a lesson on how to pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s first name. Since the Oscar nominated actress (Best Supporting Actress, Atonement) will once again be in the spotlight for awards season consideration it only seems appropriate to offer a gentle reminder how to pronounce this talented lady’s name since there will most definitely be an abundance of mispronunciation of her namesake. Saoirse is Irish for freedom and is pronounced: Sear-Sha.
With that out of the way, Brooklyn arrives to theaters across the vast ocean of time that has separated the film since it’s debut at Sundance to the gentle shores of Oscar season. It premiered to rave reviews and many months later still stands as one of the best films of the year, with considerable attention to director John Crowley, most notable for his episodes of True Detective’s second season, and a screenplay by Nick Hornby (author of High Fidelity) adapted from the book by Colm Toibin.
Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Eilis, a meek Irish girl trying to make it in the world. Through the help of her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) and a priest in New York (Jim Broadbent), Eilis heads to New York in the 1950s where the American Dream is alive and well. Once there, she stays at a boarding house under Madge Kehoe, played excellently with grace and talent by Julie Walters.
Eilis initially has trouble adjusting to life as a department store clerk, melancholic as she fails to connect with her new neighbors; a stranger in a strangeland. Her homesickness is made more bearable when she meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), a nice Italian boy with good intentions.
Just when Eilis has grown accustomed to her new life in America, a death in the family forces her to return back to Ireland, a scenario that adds anxiety to her new relationship. Complicating things is the possibility of a new romantic interest in hometown prep Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina), and the prosperity of the new world.
Brooklyn is the type of Oscar fodder that Academy voters seem to love, a blend of period drama with a healthy mix of production values garnished with a sweeping score. The film is never distracting, constructed in subdued tastes that feel like an authentic product of the era it portrays, a classical sensibility that feels like a throwback to simple dramatic storytelling and production value. However, there’s more than just magnificent production design, classy costume and makeup, and an excellently understated score that make this picture a surprisingly bearable experience.
Brooklyn is a gentle reminder of an era of simplicity, an time when baseball is still America’s pastime, and the New York teams are the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees. A world where even America’s heritage of immigration still beats vibrantly and was just black-and-white( but mostly white). What has happened to this America that’s so innocently portrayed in Brooklyn?
Despite what must have sounded like a rave, Brooklyn is by no means a masterpiece, but a well made period drama with an Oscar worthy performance from Saoirse Ronan. She carries the film with endless strength with her touching performance as Eilis, a young woman torn between nationality and identity separated by an ocean. I can’t say I was blown away by much else, but sometimes it’s just nice to watch something so well put together, something that’s just high in production value without feeling gaudy or overdone.