Phenomenal performances from Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen help to elevate 1950s romantic drama Brooklyn in the 2015 adaptation.
Irish immigrant Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) finds herself in quite the predicament following her arrival to the United States in 1951. Thanks to her sister’s help, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) arranges for Ellis to stay at a boarding house in Brooklyn. Finding work at a department store doesn’t really lead to happiness and Ellis begins to become homesick especially after receiving a letter from her sister.
Ellis soon starts to find her way. She meets Italian-American plumber Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a local dance. Romance begins to blossom between them. This is one of those instances where we know life isn’t fair because her life takes a very different turn as soon as she’s becoming comfortable in the US. It isn’t that the two of them secretly marry at a courthouse but that they do so before Ellis goes back to help her mom in Ireland.
Back in Ireland, Ellis finds herself settling into a different routine. More surprisingly, she’s set up with a bachelor, JIm Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson)! It takes going back to Ireland and suffering through this ordeal so to speak to realize that she’s not where she needs to be. In many ways, one could have seen this coming.
Nick Hornby has always been one of the great writers. More often than not, it feels like he’s adapting his own work or someone is adapting his. In this instance, Hornby adapts the novel written by Colm Tóibín. I have not read the book so I can’t compare the two. A quick glance online reveals that there’s a big difference in the endings. I can certainly say that this film’s star-studded cast turn in amazing performances all around.
It’s no mistake that Saoirse Ronan is one of the best actresses of the 2010s. All one has to do is look at her performances on the big screen. No matter the film, filmmakers know that they can depend on her to elevate the material. While there has certainly been a dud or two along the way, Brooklyn is not one of them. Her performance in the film is right up there with her work in both Lady Bird and Little Women.
Ellis Lacey is a feminist at a time when it wasn’t really seen as the popular thing to do. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Ellis Lacy and Jo March were to face off in a debate. If were talking about coming-of-age stories, one might want to throw Lady Bird in the conversation, too. When it comes to acting, it’s often said that actors look to take on things they haven’t done before. While of these characters are different in their own ways, Saoirse Ronan plays them like the strong independent women they are.
While this film does tell an immigration story, we shouldn’t compare it to present times. The immigration of the post-war 1950s is very different than today. It’s also unfortunate that things are different today, too.
Brooklyn offers its viewers a feminist lens but the film grounds itself by way of its Irish immigration story.
DIRECTOR: John Crowley
SCREENWRITER: Nick Hornby
CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, with Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters