I'll just leave that title there. Give it a moment to sink in. THIS is a love story. THIS is how it's done.
It tells the story of Eilis (we'll pronounce it Aylish for the sake of keeping some integrity within the English language – ah those whacky Irish), a young woman from the southern end of Ireland in the early 1950s. Her devoted older sister arranges for her to move to America, where accomodation and a new job awaits. It is a selfless gesture that gets Aylish out of poverty and secures her a future. From the moment she arrives the film follows her life from the struggles of immigration, her disconnection from home and her aspirations of becoming an accountant. Of course she meets a man and no sooner does she fall in love she is summoned home upon some devastating news.
This is heart-wrenching film with one hell of a lead performance. Saoirse (Sur-Shay for those who respect English as a language) Ronan is exquisite. Her total immersion and commitment to the role is hair raising and her performance is beautiful. Her character spends the entire film on a constant rollercoaster of emotions and we - as viewers - feel every single heart flutter... every nervous hesitation... and every ounce of happiness. There are few actors amongst the current generation of performers who can emote with this much sincerity and she has well and truly earned every accolade.
The period is captured wonderfully also, from the impoverished Irish neighbourhoods to the romanticised streets of Brooklyn. The attention to detail and understated set design lend BROOKLYN an equal measure of charm and honesty. As seen through the immigrant-eyes of Aysha, the setting is carefully presented as an ever-so-slightly heightened reality, as to capture a new world of opportunity, while still presenting the hardships of being a newcomer.
Director John Crowley's previous films were all fairly decent (CLOSED CIRCUIT, IN ANYBODY THERE and INTERMISSION for example) but they were no indication that he had THIS much skill as a filmmaker. And so it makes sense in retrospect when you read his biography and learn that he is a veteran theatre director. BROOKYLN is definitely theatrical and he has outdone himself. He has given us a film with smarts... a film that is moving, romantic, heartbreaking and profound.
Nicholas Sparks.... take note.